Zudgala, end of Shabbat, Vayerei, 7 November 1914

Mazeltov on the birth of Ashne, born in Malmesbury, 10 September 1913

Mazeltov our dear and precious on the birth of your daughter, may she bring you lots of luck and joy and wealth and everything that you wish yourself.


My dear Tuvye and Taube, I wish to inform you that our parents, sisters, and mother-in-law, and all the family are all well.

We wish that business will improve. The flax merchants have just survived a year of crisis. A bundle of flax of forty pounds we were lucky to sell at a very small loss for a hundred roubles. In summer, the loss would have been very much bigger, but a certain spinner had run short of flax and we received a good price, and immediately afterwards the price of flax went down again, and in any case nobody wants to buy old flax and so we were lucky to sell ours. And the whole year passed away, almost without any profit. Last year we earned in flax about a hundred and fifty roubles, and deducting the present losses, we are left with almost nothing. Still worse, the year started with very poor business – as soon as the seed business started to fall to 125 to 140 kopeks a ‘poed’ (? a bushel) (about forty pounds), so nobody earned a kopek, and we are still losing, because whatever one buys today can be obtained the next day for less. We do not know what will happen later. In the meantime the seed merchants are very unhappy and it is already the second year of low prices. Although the butchers had a good year. Also the apple merchants who deal in wholesale have made good profits. One could earn between 500 roubles and 2000 roubles, it was cheaper than a rouble a bushel. And now, the price in Riga has gone up to 250 a bushel. 


At all railway stations, apple merchants are busy buying and dispatching the apples in boxes to various destinations. At Neigut, Teire, Kolne, and also in Shimberg, the merchants are still busy and pay up to 170 a bushel. I’ve also done some business with the apples and I earned a hundred roubles.

Further, I have no news. Everything is as it was. I am still in Zudgala and I can’t get out of it, and I can’t go to Shimberg, either. Elsewhere, it is also unsuitable.


And now we are having a very inconvenient period in autumn, in the full meaning of the word. It rains every day. It is cloudy and humid weather and dark. The mud is thick. When a horse gets into it, he cannot get out. And so, we trudge along in the dark reactionary Russia, which is soaked in water and mud up to the neck. And restrictions and accusations as high as the head. May God have mercy on us Russians, and dry up the swamps, as well as the physical and spiritual conditions on us Jews.

We are having pleasure from the children. Shmuel Noah, Eliyahu Zalman’s second son, has taken another trip abroad to our old fatherland, where the Jewish spirit and body are united so well, so he writes. He lives in Jerusalem and he works as an engraver. He is an artist in his trade. He is the best in Jerusalem. He makes a beautiful job and earns good money [i]. He writes to us very nice letters in Hebrew and enjoys the renewal of the land. He often meets Chana Hessel and her husband, Shmuel Kook, and they come to visit him. [ii] He is very happy with his trip. Chana has a son, whose name is Ovadia. Eliayuhu Zalman’s oldest son, Mendel, is now travelling in Russia. I don’t know the details of it. They are all well. He lives, as always, as a useful person. At Isaac’s (Yitzchak) place, they are all well and he makes a good living. He is saving up capital in order to acquire a good business. We have received a letter from Shmuel, and from Wolf we are also beginning to get letters. He has travelled to Texas. …


Notes:

[i] Shmuel was involved in manufacturing medallions or commemorative coins, sometimes encased in glass.    He sent some to Tuvye’s family. See https://www.lot-art.com/auction-lots/Pin-of-the-22nd-Zionist-Congress-Kretzmer-signed/5-pin_22nd-04.9.18-tzolman (1946) Shmuel was born in Papilė in 1891 and specialised in engraving. A Zionist, he settled in Jerusalem in 1912 and was accepted to Bezalel where he studied painting, worked as an artist's engraver and opened a workshop in N. Komarov's shop on Jaffa Street, Jerusalem. Later illness forced him to move to Egypt and then to Vienna where he was hospitalized. He returned to Palestine in 1920, and then during the Depression to Vienna. There continued his relations with Bezalel’s Prof. Boris Schatz and created work for the Histadrut institutions. He returned to Israel with his family in 1933 after Rabbi Yitzchak Ha Cohen Kook helped him get a British permit. Samuel and his son opened "Kretzmer & Sons," on HaSolel Street (now Havatzelet) moving in 1951, to the Baruch industrial area.

[ii] Chana Hessel and Tuvye Kretzmar were first cousins. Tuvye’s father, Yehuda Leib and Chana’s father, Yoshua Hessel, were brothers (information from the Kretzmar family tree).

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar