This week's Yizkor books excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #JewishGenUpdates #ukraine

Bruce Drake

“The Great Shlepper” from the Yizkor book of Rivne (Rovno) in Ukraine is the story of one of the many occupations of Jews — in this case, a group of around fifty members whose livelihood came from unloading or uploading big wagons. But as a group of men whose strength enabled them to do those jobs, “the big porters” played another important role in the community, namely, fending off attacks on their fellow Jews. Lacking any real protection from the police, they were the unofficial police that curbed the peasants when they threatened trouble. The Polish police were lenient with them since they freed them from worries and from what they considered the contemptuous job of protecting Jewish peddlers and storeowners.
“The Great Shlepper” in this story was Liebel Spojnik , who was considered the prime of all the “big porters” because he was stout and muscled. He stood up for the Jews in another way. When a famous wrestler came to town and dared anyone to fight him, Liebel’s friends urged him to take the challenge even though he was nervous about his lack of experience. The bout didn’t have a “Rocky”-like ending, but suffice it to say his performance was seen as a successful protection of “Jewish Honor.”

Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD

Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel