From Kolomiya to Ivano-Frankivsk

May 2. We drive from Kolomiya to Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanisławów, Stanislau), the largest city between Chernivtsi (Czernowitz) and Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg). On the way we plan to stop in Nadvirna, Solotvyn and Lysech. It will be an eventful day with changing emotions, pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

The road from Kolomiya to Nadvirna winds through the hilly Carpathian foothills. We drive west along the Prut River and turn north off. Nadvirna is larger than expected. We drink a coffee at the market square and I start asking people if they knew where the Jewish cemetery is located. This proves to be difficult. People usually shrug, but there is also an unpleasant incident. A young woman stares at me angrily and starts to insult me. I do not know if it is because of the language barrier or because of my question. Finally, I have luck at a hotel. A woman calls her husband who precedes us in his car and shows us the way. Once again we are grateful for this assistance.

The Jewish cemetery of Nadvirna is in poor condition. Many stones lie on the ground, the fence of a factory site runs through the cemetery. Nevertheless, here work has begun, albeit to a much lesser extent and unsystematic, as we have seen it yesterday in Kuty. In the back part of the cemetery we find swastikas on grave stones. Once again we are shocked. We leave Nadvirna in depressed mood.

Solotvyn is considerably smaller than Nadvirna. After we have strengthened us with vareyniki and kvass in a small restaurant on the market square, I begin to ask again after the Jewish cemetery. Our hostess has never heard of a Jewish cemetery. Out on the street I have more luck. An old man tries to explain to me the way, a young man asks me to follow him into his shop and calls a friend. This friend is very interested in history, he says. Then he calls his sister, the English teacher in place, to translate. The young man interested in history has now been introduced as Ivan. Yes, he could show the way to the cemetery and the synagogue, but to even more, that maybe we are interested in. We are happy to agree.

Ivan takes us to the former Polish church. The nave is full of garbage. During the Soviet era, the church was converted into a gym, says Ivan. Then he waves at us, we are to follow him. We climb up a steep wooden staircase. The steps groan under our feet. Petra stops after a few steps, waiting for Ivan, Achim and me. Finally, we are in the roof of the church. Ivan says we should only step on the thick beams of the roof construction, in no case in the gaps. I’m not brave enough for that, but Ivan and Achim pass through the roof and finally disappear in a cavity. It seems to me endlessly, until both turn up again. When we are back down and have solid ground under our feet, Achim proudly presents the photos he has taken. The original ceiling paintings of the church are to be seen on it. “Not to many people get to see this” says Ivan.

Ivan leads us further to the German church. The Germans came in 1804 from the region of Rheinpfalz (Rhine Palatinate) to Solotvyn, he explains. Today the church is a small infirmary. Then he shows us where the former synagogue is located. A workshop uses the building today. Next to it is even a Holocaust memorial.

Where we would continue today, Ivan asks. When we tell him we want to go to Ivano-Frankivsk, he asks if we can take him with us. His family lives there. Of course we can. Ivan brings his luggage. We go first to the Jewish cemetery. Again we notice that we probably would not have found the place without a local guide. The cemetery is out of town on a hillside. Previously, there have been more grave stones here, says Ivan. “Down there, where the houses are, have been more”. Nevertheless, the cemetery is in good condition. The grass is short and there are not many sprawling bushes.

We continue to Ivano-Frankivsk. For viting Lysech it’s already to late. We skip it and leave it for another journey. On the outskirts of Ivano-Frankivsk we leave Ivan in a settlement of Soviet apartment blocks, say warmly goodbye and go to look for a hotel. Petra’s guidebook recommends a Jewish hotel, located right next to the Temple Synagogue. Another surprise.

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5 thoughts on “From Kolomiya to Ivano-Frankivsk

  1. Stanisławów, Stanislau
    oh wow!
    Now I can see where my grandfather’s people came from because of you!
    It is amazing to me to think maybe some of those stones belong to my relatives.
    Thank you!

  2. Enlightening, always enlightening. What a great feeling to know there are local folks interested in history, willing to drop everything they’re doing to help you out. Nice that you had the chance to repay his kindness with a trip to Ivano Frankivsk. I have some family connections in I.F., so I’ll be interested to read the next installment!

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