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Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Abyss of Despair

Rabbi Nathan Hanover

Bloch Publishing Company
New York, 5710‑1950

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please
let me know!


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Chapter 10

 p72  IX

The massacre in the holy community of Konstantynow​a

From there they turned, with all the troops, toward the holy community of Konstantynow. Duke Wiśniowiecki went out to meet them and inflicted upon them a heavy loss; and subsequently returned to Konstantynow. As they pressed closer to the city the Duke, fearful that the Ukrainian inhabitants of the city would rebel against him, since the enemies outside were also composed of Ukrainians, retreated from there. With him departed all of the glory from that city. Duke Wiśniowiecki and his troops, and those Jews who possessed horse and cart followed him. Those who did not provide for themselves horse and cart but placed their trust in Wiśniowiecki and his troops who had been in this city, remained there. When the Duke was only about one mile away from the city, the enemies entered it. It was Tuesday, the ninth day of Av.1 Some three thousand Jewish persons were slaughtered, and their spoil was taken for a prey. Among those killed was the scholar, our teacher and master, Rabbi Asher who was head of the Rabbinical court, and president of the Rabbinical Academy of the holy community of Polannoe and also many other scholars whose names are not known to me.

 p73  After the looting of the city of Konstantynow, Duke Wiśniowiecki sent a message to them: How long will they continue to destroy cities and kill innocent people. If they are prepared for war and have a large army, let them wage war on the battlefields. They selected for themselves the field near Lipowice, on the river,2 five miles from the holy community of Konstantynow. And they prepared a battleground, camp opposite camp; the Cossacks and Tartars on one side of the river, and Duke Wiśniowiecki and his troops on the other side. Additional troops were added on both sides, including Chmiel together with all his Cossack troops and other Ukrainians, numbering approximately thirty-thousand soldiers. Additional troops were further added to both sides. For about two months they stood opposite each other. About six hundred thousand Ukrainians headed by Chmiel and Krzywonos, may their names be blotted out, and about eighty thousand Polish troops, headed by Duke Dominik and Duke Wiśniowiecki. They possessed one hundred and fifty thousand vehicles loaded with food, drink, silver, gold vessels, and garments and an unlimited quantity of the royal treasures. The six hundred thousand Ukrainians were no match even for twenty thousand Polish troops, for the Ukrainians were village and city folk, who were armed with clubs and scythes and inexperienced in warfare. Their type of warfare consisted of loud and bitter shouting; everyone shouted to frighten  p74 the people. All their wars were fought with great cunning, but they did not possess trained warriors, except for a portion of the Cossacks, and a portion of the Tartars, numbering approximately twenty thousand. While the Polish army consisted of outstanding nobles and trained warriors.

On Sunday, the fourth day of Tishre, 409,3 they battled against each other. The Polish army prevailed and Duke Wiśniowiecki inflicted a great blow on them all that Sunday. On that Monday he even grew stronger and killed thousands and tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops. Had the nobles permitted to strike also on Tuesday, none of the enemies of Israel would have remained. They would have been forced to surrender their leaders to their former Polish masters, make peace with them, and serve them as in the days of yore.

When Chmiel became aware of this, he devised a scheme. He sent letters to General Dominik, asking for a short respite on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the battle would be resumed. It was his intention to delay them until Thursday, because two Tartar generals were arriving to aid him. The name of one was Bey and the name of the other was Tuhay Bey. These had with them one hundred thousand veteran Tartar troops and they were only one day's journey from them. Duke Dominik granted his request to rest on Tuesday. And Duke Dominik and Voyevoda Tyskiewicz spoke to Duke Wiśniowiecki: "How long will you continue to bring destruction to the Ukrainians, who are our slaves. Who will plow our fields for us,  p75 and who will do other and sundry work in the houses and in the field? If we slay them we will no longer have any slaves. Over whom will we then be the masters?" And the Polish troops had compassion upon the Ukrainians and refrained from attacking them all day Tuesday. But the enemy showed no mercy to the Poles when they fell into their hands.

On that Tuesday, toward evening, one hundred thousand Tartar warriors arrived into the Ukrainian camp. And there was exultation in the camp of the Ukrainians and the Tartars. With timbrels and flutes and trumpets they created such a clatter of noise that they made the earth quake. The Polish people however, knew not the cause for their rejoicing. They captured a Ukrainian soldier and they brought him to the Dukes for questioning and he said to them: "One hundred thousand Tartar soldiers have come to our aid, and their faces are aflame, who can withstand them?" Another version relates that Chmiel sent messages to general Duke Dominik as follows: "Peace be unto you, our Lord, the archduke Wladislaw Dominik, general of the Polish army. I and my people are grateful to you for the favor you granted us and the compassion you showed me and my people, to give us respite on Tuesday. Because of this I give you warning and benevolent counsel, that you and all your people flee this night. For there came to me a multitude of Tartars as the sand of the sea, and it is impossible to stand up against them and against my people; let not the Kingdom of Poland fall into the hands of the Tartars. Because you have shown compassion to us we are  p76 reciprocating your favor. We shall not destroy any of the cities under your rule as we destroyed the other cities of the Polish nobles."

When the dukes and nobles heard this they became terrified, and in the middle of the night all the dukes and nobles fled from camp.

When at dawn on Wednesday the Polish troops observed that all the leading dukes and nobles fled from the camp they, too, fled, all who were able to flee. They left behind all the wagons and carts filled with supplies in charge of the officers of supplies. And they hastened and fled, all of them. They abandoned their tents, their horses and asses, scattering on the road silver and gold and clothes, to facilitate their escape.

When the Tartars and the Ukrainians came into the Polish camp and observed that no one was there, they did not believe that the Poles had fled. They thought: "Surely they have tricked us so as to ambush us in the field and to attack us suddenly from there." And they sent scouts to investigate and they saw, and behold, the road is cluttered up with clothes and arms which they cast away in their haste. The Tartars then pursued them. Thus the Ukrainians and the Tartars spread out all over the Kingdom of Poland, [Little] Russia and Lithuania, and in all the places of their habitations. When the news reached the Ukrainians they immediately rebelled against their masters and killed the nobles and the Jews that were to be found, by all manner of terrible deaths. This was a time of distress for the Jews, the like of which has not yet taken place. When the Jews heard of this they escaped to more  p77 fortified places, to the cities of Bar, Kamieniec-Podolski, Brody, the capital Lwow, to Buczacz, Jazlowice, Zolkiew, to Narol, Przemysl, Belz, the monastery in Sokal, and to Zamość, some fled to Wallachia and many fled to the cities beyond the Vistula.

The Editor's Notes:

 (p126)  1 July 28, 1648.

2 The Ikwa River (?).

Thayer's Note: Konstantynow (now Starokostiantyniv) itself sits at the confluence of the Ikopot' and the Sluch rivers; the Ikva is roughly 20 to 25 km S of the city. I've been unable to find any place today called Lipowice or anything similar closer than Lypovets' in Vinnytsia, about 150 km away.

3 September 20, 1648.

Thayer's Note:

a Now Starokostiantyniv.

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