Once, Once…

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

It is difficult to know when the first Jews settled in Czyzewo as it was a small community that transformed itself into a village. In Brokhauser's “Jewish Encyclopedia”, written in Russian, we are only told that Czyzewo was one of the places where Jews were not limited in their living-rights and that in 1856, 34 Christians and 1457 Jews lived there. According to the census of 1897, the total population amounted to 1785 people of whom 1596 were Jews.

From the same source we also learn that Czyzewo then belonged to the Ostrów District in Lomza Province. According to the general encyclopedia of 1861, Czyzewo belonged to Plock Province and Ostrolenka District.

Old documents from the end of the 18th century, that were in the Provincial archive in Bialystok, show that during the years 1770-1780 Czyzewo – that was the name of shtetl even back then – had 47 houses and 370 inhabitants. Of those, over three hundred were Jews.

Development at that time was very slow, as shown by documents of 1827 stating there were 74 houses and 811 inhabitants.

The mail highway between Warszawa-Petersberg went through the shtetl. The shtetl had no other distinction, except its poverty. The Jews, mostly ran small businesses traded among themselves and later with surrounding honorable Polish nobility. With time various artisans arrived, but in general, the craftsmen trades were difficult to develop.

Czyzewo did not have any economic base and therefore, at the time, the Jewish population of the community was not able to grow as in other places.

In 1854 the railroad line was built between Petersberg and Warszawa and went through Czyzewo. This helped the shtetl flourish.

The Polish Slownik Geograficzny (Geography Dictionary) of 1880 mentions the date of the new railroad line as a turning point in the development of Czyzewo. Then the businesses grew because of the grain industry. There were also new opportunities for artisans.

At the time, new sources of income were being creating. The manufacture of tsitses (the undergarment with four tassels worn by Orthodox Jews), developed and because of the excellent quality of the goods, they were greatly appreciated throughout the country. This product was also exported and was in great demand by American Jews, but the highest demand for tsitses, until 1914 – was from Russian Jews. The trade with Russia was cut off at the outbreak of the First World War in the aforementioned year.

So, life for the Czyzewer Jews alternated between sad and happy, cheerless and sunny days, black and bright spots – two colors that accompanied business and economic life up until the outbreak of the brown plague that led to the complete destruction of the Jewish community in Czyzewo.