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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

Supplement to the Village

It was at a very early age that Ary's overwhelming desire to paint manifested itself. One of his earliest memories was that of buckets of colors for dyeing cloth. When the peasants of the village sheared sheep they would bring the wool to Ary's father to have it carded and woven and then dyed. Ary, probably 6 or 7 years old, was fascinated by the colors and he dipped into the buckets, getting the dye all over himself. His mother spanked him soundly, and crestfallen, he stole away to the fields where he wept, and eventually fell asleep on the ground. In the evening his father found him there and carried him home.

His great delight was to cut designs from paper with a carving knife, the only tool he had, and to paste paper of different colors under the design. There were some Hebrew letters in the design, and the Jews of the village loved to hang these "pictures" on the wall. Ary would get a kopek (penny) for each one, and with the kopek he would buy more colored paper.

Once a young man came from the city and the Jewish men gathered around him to hear the news from far away. He happened to mention paintings, and Ary, intrigued, stayed at his side all evening and drank in all the young man could tell him about the world of pictures.

The people of Hretzk heard that a General was coming to visit the village. Ary got a piece of charcoal and drew a picture of the general, and since he must be very elegant, Ary tried to think of the most splendid thing he could wear, and he decided on galoshes. So there was the General with galoshes on (unfortunately the drawing wasn't preserved).

Although life in the village was most primitive, there was always enough to eat. The red cow — there always was a red cow — provided milk, sour cream, butter and cheese. Potatoes were the chief staple, and there were cucumbers made into pickles, cabbage made into sauerkraut, onions, preserves from wild blackberries and blueberries, carrots, plums and cherries in season, and pears and apples stored for the winter in barrels, protected with hay or straw. Occasionally there were grapes or watermelon. Particularly at the time of prayers at the New Year (Rosh Hashonah) in the autumn, they managed to have a bit of fresh fruit. Once a boy whose father was very wealthy had an orange, and he gave Ary a little section of it — it was a heavenly flavor. Ary's mother baked black bread once a week. On Friday night there was usually some meat.

There was no doctor in the village — none nearer than Slutzk, some miles away. There was a sort of self-ordained doctor called a "felcha"; Ary remembered one of the children being ill, and this man being called in. He made some sort of a concoction, which I believe was not applied to the patient — it was supposed somehow to work a miracle. If there was a real emergency, a horse and cart had to be borrowed from one of the peasants and a drive to Slutzk undertaken. I believe it was Ary who had croup and was choking and arrived at the doctor's house in Slutzk just in time to have the membrane cut, which was obstructing his breathing.

The village had a small synagogue, which Ary's grandfather had helped to build. The Jewish families were very religious and the men and boys were all versed in the Talmud and Hebrew. However, the one village school, with one teacher and some 200 pupils, from the entire district, was not open to Jewish children. So Ary and his older brother Abe were sent to Slutzk to attend the Cheder, where Jewish boys were taught Hebrew and the Bible and Talmud. The Jewish community in Slutzk was poor, but they undertook to provide the evening meal for the boys who had come from nearby villages. Each day Ary went to a different home for the evening meal. Sometimes there were too many school-boys to be provided for and a day was skipped. One man — a distant relative — said he couldn't bring Ary home but would give him a couple of kopeks for a meal one day a week. Ary would go down to his store and wait around, sometimes for several hours, and if the man didn't notice him, Ary would be too timid to ask, and would go away without that day's food. The boys away from home would sleep on the floor at the back of the synagogue.

Before long Ary began to rebel, not at the physical hardships, but at the fact that learning at the Cheder was limited to things Jewish. There was a world full of fascinating things to find out about and it was only at a regular school that he could learn such things. So he began to figure out a way to get into the regular school. It was not a simple thing, because the quota for Jewish boys was strictly limited. Besides, he needed a birth certificate, and this he didn't have. The only person who could help him would be the Rabbiner — not a Rabbi, but a person employed by the Jewish community to register births and other vital statistics in all the towns and villages of that district. So Ary screwed up his courage and knocked at the door of the Rabbiner's house. The Rabbiner opened the door and listened with a frown to Ary's timid request for help in getting into the school. "I can't do anything for you," he said shortly, and slammed the door. A few weeks later Ary presented himself at the Rabbiner's door again. "I told you I can't help you," the Rabbiner snapped. This time Ary began to cry. And then a voice came from the back room. "What's the matter there?" and a hunch-backed young man appeared. He was the Rabbiner ‘s son, home for vacation from his important job in a nearby town. He was a kindly person and listened to Ary's story sympathetically. Then he turned to his father and demanded that he help the boy. It took several more visits from Ary, but finally the Rabbiner told him that he had arranged with the head of the school that Ary be enrolled as a student.

So Ary's dream of a regular education was coming true. But he had other troubles, for when the Jewish community learned that one of the boys they were feeding refused to go to a Jewish school they withdrew, one after another, their offer of the evening meal. The boy was in a bad way. Whom to approach? The Rabbiner. This time when he knocked at the door the Rabbiner greeted him warmly, "Where have you been, Aronchick — my wife has been asking to meet you," and he ushered Ary into a bedroom where his wife, who was an invalid, was propped up in bed. Evidently she had heard of the plight Ary was in, because she told him they wanted him to come and live with them; he would have his room and his meals. In exchange he was to help the Rabbiner with his records, and occasionally accompany him on his trips to nearby villages.

So here was Ary, at the school he had longed for, with a room of his own to sleep in and do his lessons, two good meals a day, his few clothes laundered by the maid — it was luxury indeed. He didn't mind hurrying home from school to work on the Rabbiner's books. The one thing he did mind was that sometimes some of his school-mates, annoyed that he was always so studious and at the top of his class, would lie in wait for him on his way home and beat him up.

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