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P U B L I C A T I O N S  >  R E M I N I S C E N C E S

bullet Preface
bullet Foreword
bullet Grandfather     Dictated by Ary
bullet The Village     Dictated by Ary
bullet Supplement to the Village
bullet Vilna     Dictated by Ary
bullet Supplemet to Vilna
bullet Coming to the United States     Dictated by Ary
bullet Back of the Store     Dictated by Ary
bullet Omaha     Dictated by Ary
bullet Ary in New York - 1919
bullet Ary in Paris
bullet Ary Comes Back to the United States
bullet Ary's Marriage
bullet Summer Cottage in Harmon
bullet The Studio on Fifty-Ninth Street
bullet We Return to Paris
bullet Cuernavaca-Houston
bullet Ary and Music
bullet Ary and the English Language
bullet Ary Stillman - Thoughts on Painting

Dictated by Ary

Grand Father

1906 or 7
Charcoal drawing
(no longer in existence)

Often I would wake up in the morning and hear the sound of loud voices outside the house. Peeking out the high window I would see seated in the middle of a circle of peasants, all talking and gesticulating in great excitement. Only Grandfather was calm, his keen black eyes under their shaggy eyebrows the only sign of his interest in the scene around him. White hair, flowing white beard, white shirt and white linen trousers that he had laboriously cut and fashioned himself, he could have been one of the prophets out of the Bible. And just as unerring he was in his judgment and his denunciation. "Be still!" he would command. "Now, Ivan, what is your complaint? The truth now, no lies!" The babble would quiet down, and Ivan would begin his story. All through his recital of the pig that had been stolen from him, Grandfather's eyes would rest on one after another of the peasants gathered around. At the conclusion of the story, he would pick up the cane, which was always at his side, point it at one of the peasants, and deliver his verdict:

"You, Dmitri, it is you who stole Ivan's pig! Give it back to him!" Dmitri would nod his head submissively "Yes, Yankel, I will do your bidding.'' The crowd would disperse, and the next day the shame-faced Dmitri would bring a little sack of corn for Grandfather as a token of his repentance.

Once a month I would go home for the weekend, walking the distance of 12 miles between the city and Hretzk in time to arrive home for the lighting of the candles and the Sabbath meal. I would carry my schoolbooks with me, not that I wanted to study, but because I had seen Grandfather's eyes light up the first time I had come home carrying a book of geography. And waking up at night, I had seen him seated by the big stove, bent over the book, poring over its mysteries by the dim lights of the oil lamp. All night long he read, laboriously translating the Russian text, miraculously transported to a world of which he had never heard.

Grandfather had already lived his life, made his philosophy; there was no struggle now. He had a house where he lived. The other little expenses he had solved also. In the active years he had managed to save five or six hundred rubles. There was no bank in the village, but he knew the people there and those who had little stores always needed a little money, so he would lend them money, and the interest he took out in trade. He would get sugar, tea, salt, tobacco which he needed for his pipe — all these things that would be needed. Of course potatoes and bread didn't cost him anything — he would get them from the peasants. He would go on Friday to the store and bring home all those essentials which he would have had to buy in the store — prunes perhaps, and kerosene. One of the main items was kerosene for the lamps. He must have had an arrangement with another place too because he always had a few rubles with him which he would get during the year from interest. He didn't believe in spending money foolishly for anything.

When he was young, Grandfather had built churches; he would build without ever studying architecture — I don't know if he had built the church in our village, but he would make drawings and functioned as architect; some peasants would come to him to consult him. He was self-trained in everything, including this kind of work.

I don't think my father had Grandfather’s balance or the philosophical grasp on things. To Grandfather the pig was a creature on a par with the horse or cow — a creature that inhabited the planet. Father was a young man, of course, and he was like all of his generation in that primitive society. But his desire was that his children should be educated. That desire was very strong in Mother, who brought it from the city. She always was proud that the family was well educated, that their Uncle's family, the Bezborodkos, was a distinguished family. That was her pride. There was nothing distinguished in the family of Grandfather. My Grandfather wouldn't have accepted the distinction of "class". We are all going to die — the elements of futility were strong in his mind. Grandfather was proud of my older brother, Abe, and me because we showed a great inclination for learning and study.

My father was physically very strong — had a robust frame. They used to tell the story that father once had a contest with some of the peasant boys his age and he knocked them all down. My Mother was sort of sickly. She came from the city and had a hard time to fit into the primitive country life.

I vaguely remember my Grandfather's mother. They say she was 110 when she died. She was the midwife in the village and was called by the peasants when a child was to be born. They used to bring her things and the little house was full of linen, which she loved. Also cats. They claim there were more than 100 cats around her. Her tiny little house was behind Grandfather's. I hardly remember her — she was so old that she was incoherent, and she spoke a Yiddish that was hard to understand.

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