A last Excursion

When I asked Mykola Kushnir, the director of the Jewish Museum in Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), how I could see the wall paintings in the former synagogue of Novoselitsa, he invited me spontaneously to go there with him today. A really nice and generous offer – especially as Mykola has the key to the synagogue. Thanks, Mykola, for this wonderful excursion – the last on this journey!

With us are Janne, a volunteer of Action Reconciliation, and Silke, a scholarship holder at the University of Czernowitz and former volunteer at a work-camp in the Jewish cemetery.

“We can make a small detour via Sadagora and look at what the construction works do,” says Mykola. This refers to the works at the former synagogue of the rabbi of Sadagora, once part of an important Hasidic court. In fact, we see that a new copper roof was installed. The terrain is however closed and construction works seem to have come to a standstill again.

We leave and pass through Bojani. There too, has been a Hasidic court. However, nothing of it remained. After a few kilometers we reach Novoselitsa.

The synagogue is barely recognizable as such. A simple functional building in which a pioneer club was housed in Soviet times. Only on one side something is still visible of the original decoration. The murals were discovered by accident during restoration works some years ago. The Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine acquired then the building and is now trying to raise the necessary funds to save the building and the murals.

Mykola notices that the padlock of the front door no longer works. It is completely rusted from the inside. A man from in town has the duplicate key, he also tries – unsuccessfully. The lock needs to be replaced anyway. Without further ado, the door is broken up and later a new lock fitted. In front of us in the semi-darkness of the synagogue are the rare wall paintings. Cautiously we move forward and look around. We see a large zodiac on the ceiling and representations of biblical scenes and cities on the walls. A vanished world speaks quietly to us.

We make a detour to the Jewish cemetery. That proves surprisingly to be surrounded by a solid wall. Within this wall is a house that is guarded by two angry dogs, one of them looks pretty dangerous. On our ringing nobody responds. We circle around the cemetery, but unsuccessful. It is impossible to get through. I have no choice but to shoot a few pictures over the wall.

Back in Czernowitz, we see that in front of the House of Culture – the former Jewish National House, in which the Jewish Museum is located – a crowd has gathered. One of the men who were killed on Maidan in Kyiv, has been brought to his hometown Czernowitz to be buried. The coffin has been brought to the House of Culture, hundreds of people want to express their grief. There it is again, the hard Ukrainian today.

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11 thoughts on “A last Excursion

  1. Lieber Christian, ich möchte Ihnen recht herzlich danken fur Ihre beeindruckende Berichterstattung der letzten Wochen. Für Sie sowie für mich als follower war Ihre Reise eine zweifellos traumhafte Erlebnis zwischen zwei Welten: die versunkene Welt Galiziens von 100 Jahre her und die zukünftige aber noch unbekannte Welt von einer freien Ukrainen. Herzliche Grüsse und eine behaltene Heimkehr.

  2. My great-grandfather’s name is listed on the “plaque” in this Synagogue in Novoselitze. His name was Benyomin Gandelman. The building of the wall around the cemetery is being managed by Nachum Finger from Israel. A few years ago he sent me the pictures you posted of the Synagogue. If you have any more information on the cemetery or the Synagogue, please let me know.

  3. My grandmother was born in this town and this is awesome to see. It’s impressively difficult to find photos of Jewish life or remnants of what used to be Jewish life here. Thank you for the post and photos!

  4. My late Father was born there. It was a delight to see these photos – thank you so much!!! My family name appears at the bottom of the “Plaque”. Thank you from the Fishman Family

  5. Dear Christian,

    this is incredible, since 7 years or more, I have being looking for the past of my family and is so difficult to find something. My father was born in Novoselitza in 1930, and part of the family went to Venezuela… But the other part I don’t know.. I just know that 3 brother from Novoselitza move to US and I have tried to contact them without any luck.
    Thanks for this, post it is very nice to get some kind of closer look.

    • Hi Sally,
      I also have relatives who emigrated to Venezuela. The family of Mauricio Vainrub settled in Caracas. Mauricio and Ester’s three sons left several years ago due to the political scene and antisemitism, and now reside in Aventura, just north of Miami.

  6. My grandmother Sadie (Sopira) Blank was born in Novoselitsa in 1893 and emigrated to the US through Ellis Island in 1910. I’ve been trying to research her early life for many decades but the information is so very limited. Can’t imagine how difficult her life must have been (and the lives of my great grandparents, etc. who never left Novoselitsa…). Thank you for your work!

  7. My great grandfather came from Novoselitsa to Colombia in the interwar period. I would love to know more about the town and possible Kertznus relatives.

    Thanks a lot for this great project!

  8. My great-grandfather Kertznus came from Novoselitsa to Colombia. Thanks for doing this great project!

    Anyone know anything about the ancestors or origins of the settlers of Novoselitsa? or the generations before WW1 ?

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