The black and white films and scans from my recent trip to Ukraine are back from the photo lab. The synagogue and the Beit Midrash (House of Study) in Uhniv, the Jewish cemetery in Buchach and the imposing synagogue in Hrymailiv are among the subjects. Here is a first selection.
In Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg) are the remains of the most famous and oldest synagogue in the territory of Ukraine, the “Golden Rose”. Of the approximately 70 synagogues in the city only two more have survived the German occupation, almost every guidebook mentions them. Virtually unknown, however, is a prayer room which is hidden in a basement.
When I woke up the sky was deep blue, the weather report promised 35 degrees. I decided to stay in the city and to walk to the Jewish cemetery and the nearby former concentration camp site. It was a sad walk.
A day without great events. A last walk through Chernivtsi (Czernowitz) and then an eight hours bus ride with the marshrutka to Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg).
Today I was traveling with the volunteers who work at the Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz). Kosiv, Kuty and Vyzhnytsia (Wischnitz) were on the schedule. A journey through Hasidic wonderland. A wonderland that only exists in memories.
The Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz) is an enchanted garden. In his jungle you meet lions, deer, blessing hands, and people who are long gone. This morning I had some time to explore it once again. Even after many visits, it is a fascinating place to me. The cemetery tells of rise and fall of Jewish Czernowitz. I spent the afternoon with the volunteers of SVIT Ukraine who work in the cemetery.
Today I have met the volunteers of SVIT Ukraine who work in the Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), to clear it of rampant vegetation. It is a miracle that this workcamp takes place. Many people are afraid to come to Ukraine because of the war in the east of the country. And SVIT faced big challenges. The organization has its headquarters in Artemovsk, which was temporarily occupied by “separatists”. The infrastructure had to be moved to Kharkiv, bank accounts registered in Artemovsk were temporarily closed. The by Russia stirred up war has an impact on Ukrainian civil society and on the opportunities of young people for international exchange.
It is always nice to meet Czernowitzers in Czernowitz (Chernivtsi) – old and young! Stories are exchanged, old stories, new stories, wishes and hopes for the future.
The witnesses of Galicia’s multiethnic past are still there. But piece by piece they vanish. Many already don’t know about their meaning any more. When I was in Hrymailiv in February to change from one bus to another, I asked a few people for the location of the local synagogue. No one of them had ever heard of a synagogue in town. Today I was there.
I leave Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg) later than I intended. It is already 2 o’clock when the bus departs from the bus station and the trip takes longer than I thought. After 4 hours we reach Buchach. I change my plans and decide to stay overnight.