Father was a shoemaker by trade and my maternal grandfather was a mason.

Orthodoxy was practiced by many Jewish people in Verecky and that included my parents and grandparents. In accordance with that custom men grew beards and sidecurls, the hair on the heads cut short, and prayed every morning and evening in synagogue or at home, at synagogue every Friday evening, Saturday morning and on holidays. Married women's hair was shorn off just before the wedding ceremony and was kept shorn all tnrough life. while some wore wigs others kept their heads covered with kerchiefs. Saturday (Sabbath) was strictly observed as a day of rest and worship, any kind of work or any physical activity strictly forbidden. This of course cramped the style of us youngsters. Saturday happened to be one of the two days of the week to play soccer. Secluded places had to be found in order to conceal this vital activity from general knowledge. It also necessitated the posting of guards to keep from being discovered. Although we succeeded in this endeavor most of the time, occasionally we were caught in the act and severely scolded.

Not all of us adhered strictly to the practice of orthodoxy, however. Most of the younger generation, having been exposed to the influences of modern ideals, were to some extent deviant.

At the time I was born and for several years after, we were financially well off. While not exactly wallowing in money, we enjoyed relative abundance. We lived in a rented two-room little house which was quite comfortable for a small family. Father's shoemaking business was prosperous. We even hired an employee to help him with the work. We owned a cow which provided us with milk, butter and cheese. I had custom made shoes and jack boots. When I was about four I had a tailored suit custom made. I can vividly remember the tailor coming to our house and having me put on the table to take measurements and later to try on the fitting. I still recall how difficult it was to stand still during those proceedings. That tailor, by the way, was the one I was apprenticed to in my teens. All in all, life was quite pleasant.

This euphoria didn't last however. Commensurate with the growth of the size of the family the quality of life deteriorated, until we were consigned to a life on the edge of poverty. Father's business was just incapable to generate enough income to adequately provide for seven people.

Although by that time I already lived at my grandparents, I still had to eat lunch at my parents' house.

I had four brothers when the family stopped growing. I was the oldest living offspring. The boy born before me died in infancy. My younger brother Hersch Leib was born in circa 1923 followed by Mordechai in approximately 1926, Moishe in 1929 and Zalman in 1932.

In about 1930 my parents bought a house consisting of two rooms plus a hallway, located near the river about three kilometers from my grandparents. That was when the cow was sold and a goat bought instead. It provided some milk and as its diet consisted of branches and bushes –of which there was an ample supply in Verecky -it was much cheaper to keep than a cow. Only one room was in livable condition and with only two beds available it had to accomodate six people.The other room,having no window panes or glass, had to be boarded up and, having no furniture, became the abode of the goat. She was the only member of the family enjoying privacy. Adjacent to the house was a good size garden (about one acre) which was used to grow vegetables such as potatoes (the staple diet), corn, cabbage, beans, peas, radishes, onions, garlic, etc. While all this prevented total starvation, it was not sufficient in quantity to fully satisfy the appetite of a large family. A number of nourishing food items were in short supply such as meat, fish, bread, butter, sugar, eggs and fruit. Meat was served in meager portions only on Friday for supper, Saturday lunch and on holidays. Of course, living at my grandparents, the quality of my life was much better than that of my brothers or parents! I was better fed for the most part. While I didn't have my private bedroom, at least I had my own bed, except on times we had out of town company.

Father's task, while not easy, was not quite as burdensome as that of Mother. At his workbench from early morning to late in the afternoon, he plied his trade in a sitting position, while poor Mother was on her feet all day weighed down with the burdens of all the duties of a wife and mother, such as lighting the stove, cooking for six people, washing dishes, washing the laundry by hand, cleaning, nursing sick children, working in the garden and at times helping Father saw and chop fire wood. I remember her mostly as looking emaciated, overworked and undernourished.

I must have been about two years old when I was begun to be shuttled back and forth between my parents and grandparents. I still remember my father carrying me piggyback.

Living with my grandparents at that time was their son Mayer, daughter Dachel and their youngest daughter Sarah. Shortly thereafter Mayer left for the U.S.A., Dachel got married and moved with her husband to Mukatchevo. Sarah was the only aunt left at home. As I grew older ,my visits became more frequent and I stayed longer at the grandparents' home until I finally established permanent residence there while paying occasional visits to my folks' home.

Grandparents' house consisted of two rooms, one of which was quite large, a detached kitchen hut, a structure where two cows were kept and a tool shed. This home was located in the northern part of town. The back was embedded into the foot of a steep mountain and the front was at an elevated level with a stair-case leading up to the front door and veranda from the street. At the opposite side of the street was a steep ravine at the bottom of which flowed the river bisecting the town. Adjacent to the house there were two gardens where vegetables were grown. Part way up the mountain was a good size plot of land used exclusively for planting of potatoes. Wheat didn't grow in our region as the climate wasn't suitable for it. Large land owners however planted and harvested oats and the kind of grain from which black bread was made. There were also two pear, and several plum trees yielding fruit every year and two large apple trees producing fruit once every two years. In the neighboring village there was a large cherry orchard in which we were sometimes allowed to pick cherries for free as the owner was Grandfather's good friend. Hazel nuts grew in profusion in the woods which were state owned, the harvesting of which was free to anyone willing to make the effort of climbing up the mountain.

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Boris Segelstein