This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen facebook page

Bruce Drake

The phrase “turning back the clock” takes on a whole new meaning in this week’s chapter, “In Mezritch,” from the Yizkor book of Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Poland.

Brush-making was one of the big industries in Mezritch. The town had more bristle workers (1,200) than any other city in the Siedlce region in eastern Poland. At the beginning of the 1890s, the day of the bristle workers In Mezritch was 17-18 hours. They worked in low, small houses with awful sanitary conditions as they toiled with iron combs used to comb raw pig hair. They worked amid clouds of dust in the air during the work, making breathing difficult. The odor of pig hair mixed with that from the kerosene which was used to oil the combs, and heightened the stench that came from the lamps.

One wealthy factory owner named Mosehl Chazirnik put his own finishing touch on the long days of his workers. His factories would operate on Saturdays, after the Sabbath was over, until midnight. Workers, of course, had their eyes on the clock, but it “was a strange clock... it played tricks. It would be 11:30, and then suddenly move back to 11:15. When it was already 11:45…one would look at the clock, and see that it had fallen back by ten minutes.” That went on until, one night, a worker looked down the hallway and saw that “Moshel Chazirnik, wearing his housecoat, was standing on a stool near the wall clock, turning back the hands of the clock.” (I won't spoil the fun of reading what ensued after Chazimik was caught red-handed). To make a long story short, there was no more pig hair brushed that night. And for some time after. It was 1900 and the bristle workers went out on strike for the first time.


Bruce Drake

Silver Spring MD


Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel