The violence begins

Word spread to the town that an attack was coming and a self-defense force, or Zelbshuts, was organized. Seventy-five men enlisted and money was collected to purchase weapons from the non-Jews in the town. Hirsh Turi, a successful 30-year-old merchant who was decorated for his service in the army, was the leader.

Events began on December 6, 1919, which was the eve of Hanukkah. A band of men, all on horseback, appeared outside Tetiev led by a former Russian officer named Shmarkatiuk, a native Tetiever. The band was made up of peasants from Kaspirovke, Skubinits and other nearby villages.

The next day, six horsemen came into town and were captured by the Zelbshuts, who arrested them. At three o’clock that afternoon, 21 more bandits came into town and exchanged gunfire with the Zelbshuts near the church. Two bandits were wounded and later died. Hayim Mogilievski, the blacksmith, grabbed one of the bandits, took three revolvers from him and beat him. Mogilievski’s father, Yosef, 84, was shot and wounded – Hayim released his bandit and went to help his father. Two other Zelbshuts killed the bandit with their rifle butts.

Once the bandits saw they were being attacked, they fled, and the Zelbshuts took six horses and captured the leader, Shmarkatiuk.

Shmarkatiuk was jailed for eight days until Burtshok, who headed a military unit from Tarashcha, looked over his papers and released him. Burtshok officially recognized the Zelbshuts and gave them permission to carry arms.

The Zelbshuts and 15 local peasants served as the city militia and were paid monthly payments from the wealthier people in the town, along with merchants who had to send food and merchandise outside the town to be sold. Wealthy members of the Zelbshuts received 100 rubles a month, while those without income received 1500 rubles a month.

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