Hechalutz Hatzair and Hapoel in Keidan

By Pesach Shlapobersky

My memories of Hechalutz Hatzair in Keidan begin in 1926. In those days, while there were Scouts and Beitar branches, both of which attracted children and school youth, the working youth had no place for meetings or for after-work and holiday leisure. A few of us therefore got together and decided to form a local branch of Hechalutz Hatzair, and began to hold activities immediately. I was one of the active members.

We held our meetings in one of the rooms at the Talmud Torah, which had long before become a Tarbut school. Naturally we got permission from the administration to use the school as a meeting place. Over time we began receiving materials from the Hechalutz Hatzair center in Kovno, the capital, and I even attended a few conferences there. The center took care of lodging delegates in Kovno’s urban kibbutz, which was on the way to Aleksot (Aleksotas) Hill.

In 1928, I decided to go to Kovno to study mechanics, so of course I ceased my activity in the Hechalutz Hatzair Keidan branch, but when I returned in 1929, with the help of some marginal kids who had meanwhile grown older, I established a branch of Hapoel in Keidan. As best I can recall, we got a permit from the district government to conduct sports activities.

For our meeting place, we renovated the Jewish community house, which was dilapidated, and we formed a soccer team with Hapoel sport uniforms. We organized games against Hapoel teams from other towns and against non-Jewish teams.

I continued with organization and other work in Hapoel until September 1931, when I was drafted into the Lithuanian army. I was stationed in Vilkomir [Ukmergė], where I also tried to open a branch of Hapoel, but I was told not to, as the authorities would find out, and I was after all in the army.

I was discharged in April 1933, and returned to Keidan. While my memories of Hapoel activity thereafter are not clear, I do recall that that year, an urban training kibbutz was established in Keidan, and I helped establish it as best I could. But by August of that year, I had made aliya to Eretz-Israel.

Translated by Miriam Erez