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.
In the morning I was in the cemetery, to say “hello” to the volunteers. Arthur Rindner, his girlfriend Rina and Edgar Hauster were also there – Arthur and Edgar have family roots in Czernowitz . There are fewer volunteers than in recent years, but they do their job with the same sense of duty and the same joy as all of them before. They are young people from Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland and of course Ukraine.
In the afternoon I went on an excursion to Sadagora with them, the seat of a famous Hasidic rabbi dynasty. The cemetery in Sadagora is in poor condition. Grass and bushes are so high that access is impossible. Care has been obviously stopped. But there are good news from the synagogue and the residence of the rabbi of Sadagora. The renovation work has been resumed and is making progress.
In the evening, Arthur invited the volunteers for dinner and Edgar donated ice cream. It is their way of saying thank you, because they both have relatives who are buried in the Jewish cemetery of Czernowitz. This meetings of old Czernowitzers with young people who just discover the world, are for me one of the most important things of the work-camps. Both sides have to give something to each other and this is always nice to watch.
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