Shaya Fried (Part I)


Please tell me where you were born.

My name is Samuel — Shaya Fried. Our family name was originally Friedman and it was shortened before I came to the United States. I was born on November 3, 1929, in Welke-Bareza, Czechoslovakia, about 35 km from the large town of Uzhhorod-Ungvar. It was a small town with a population of just a few thousand people.

Under the Czech regime, the democracy was just like here in the U.S. The Czech President lived in America for a long time, even marrying an American citizen. He built up the Czechoslovakian government. All the stores in town were owned and run by Jewish people. The peasants who lived there had no idea how to run a business.

The town was situated between mountains and the Uzh river ran through it. The air was always pleasant, and it was a beautiful town. We lived across from the park on Tomasarik Street, in a nice house, with a tenant. On the bottom floor my parents had a store which supplied shoemakers with all the materials to make shoes. They made a nice living from it.

Every Tuesday was market day. About 40 booths were set up, selling all types of products including farm products and dairy products.

Our town boasted a nice shul built in 1936 and a new Talmud Torah, as well as a beautiful mikveh. The Rav of the shul was Rabbi Sofer, a grandchild of the Afsei Aretz. He had a big yeshivah where my father learned before he was married. This shul still stands today as a library. Each family paid their dues to the kehillah which was collected by the city like a tax. With this money they built a nice community. In addition, there was a Chassidic shul built by my great-grandfather under the direction of the Sanzer Rebbe, zy”a. Half of the mispallelim in the shul were related to us. There was one other shul and all different types of Jews went there.

What memories can you share with us about your family?

My father, Reb Shlomo Friedman, was a Munkatcher Chassid. He would travel to Munkatch twice a year, for Yom Kippur and Shavuos. He had two married sisters living there and he would stay at their home.

My father was a businessman. In the morning and again in the evening, he was part of a chaburah that learned together.

My mother, Frimet Friedman, nee Friedman, was a niece to my father. My maternal grandfather was the oldest of 10 children and my father was the youngest. My mother was a lovely lady. Everyone knew her, and everyone liked her. She took very good care of us and kept us united. She had a lively personality and made many family gatherings. I had one older brother, Herschel, and one younger sister, Pearl.

Can you describe what Shabbos and Yom Tov were like at home?

Boys who came to learn in yeshivah would eat their Shabbos seudos at different homes in town. Every Shabbos we had two bachurim eating at our table. A lively discussion of divrei Torah always ensued, and they sang beautiful zemiros.

Our town did not have a fish store; fish was a valuable commodity. Thursday afternoon, two gentiles were hired by my cousin to go down to the river and catch fish. He would then distribute the fish amongst the family members. We were a large family, and each family received just a small amount.

On a regular basis my mother made one kugel; on special occasions like Rosh Chodesh, my mother would make two kinds of kugel.

Shabbos afternoon my father would farher — he would test me and my brother on what we had learned during the week in cheder.

Sukkos was usually very cold. Fortunately, we had a built-in sukkah so that it was a little warmer. Our tenant made their sukkah in the yard. It was a most beautiful Yom Tov.

My mother worked very hard to make Pesach. We only used products that were made in our house. We did not use oil; my mother would make shmaltz from chicken fat. Before Pesach my mother would make liquid sugar.

We used Oshrov matzos. These matzos were famous for their delicious taste and famous for their chumros — stringencies. Erev Pesach our family would bake matzos in the shul which had a special oven. They created a whole system so that every family got the amount that they needed.

We had a shochet in town from the famous Wercberger family. He belonged to the Satmar Chassidus. The shochet was the baal tefillah in the shul as well. No one was allowed to bring in outside meat, only what was shechted in our town.

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.