In and around Chortkiv

Marla, Jay, Alex, Vasyl and I continued our journry through Galicia. Starting from Chortkiv, we have been to Kopychyntsi, Budaniv, Korolivka and Tovste. Also today, we saw a lot of partly or fully destroyed Jewish heritage sites. But we also saw some rays of light.

Chortkiv has no Jewish cemetery anymore. The territory of the cemetery is now a public park next to a hospital. Only a newly erected monument over a rabbi’s grave reminds of the former purpose of the place. At least two synagogues are still visible in Chortkiv: the New Synagogue – once part of the Hasidic court of the Friedman dynasty – and a second one, centrally located in a market area. While one is used as a library, used furniture is stocked in the second one. Chortkiv has no Jewish community any more.

A comparable situation we found in the small town of Kopychyntsi in a short distance from Chortkiv. The synagogue has been used for a long time as a bus station – now there are shops inside. The town had two Jewish cemeteries, but not a single stone remained. While one was built over after its destruction, the other one is a park now. No sign or marker indicate what has been there before. A former Jewish community building still exists, but it is abandoned and in a poor state.

Budaniv has a surprisingly big synagogue for a small town like that. The roof of the imposing building has collapsed and its future looks bleak. Alex, whom we met again in Budaniv, asked the mayor whether there are any restoration plans. There is no money, the mayor said. Budaniv’s cemetery is destroyed to a big extent. We found only very few upright standing tombstones. Depressed we left the place. Somehow all of us have faced to much destruction during the last days.

Alex recommended to go to Korolivka and Tovste – towns that had not been on our itinerary before. But we have time and as so often Alex turned out to be right. Korolivka Jewish cemetery is picturesquely located on a hill, overlooking the surrounding lands. The quality of stone carving is striking and the cemetery is well preserved and maintained. “This is what a Jewish cemetery should look like”, said Marla and I could only agree.

Also in Tovste, the Jewish cemetery is almost in good condition. We found grazing goats, keeping the grass short in a surprisingly big cemetery of some hundred stones. At least at some places there is hope, these sites will not vanish.

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9 thoughts on “In and around Chortkiv

  1. Thank you for these remarkable, fascinating, moving and haunting pictures. There is such a presence of absence that is heartbreaking. Still, it is a reminder to never forget!

    • I agree with your sad, beautiful comment “presence of absence.” Had a friend from Chortkow, a vibrant town with a quite large Jewish population.

  2. Dear Christian, you’re walking a road I have traveled too, twenty years ago, in Cekia, Slovakia and Poland, discovering synagogues and cemeteries lost or abandoned and not. I would have liked to continue in Ukraine, Galicia in the Sub-Carpathian area, Vynnitsa and up to Cernovitz but I could not. Now it is wonderful to be able to follow your travels and your photos, the ones that I could not do. Who knows, maybe one day I will have the chance to follow you in person on one of these journeys along what I have always called “Itinerary in the Wonderful”. A journey through places where large Jewish communities lived contributing enormously to the cultural development of our Europe and the whole world, to bear witness to it and preserve it for the future. And, me too, I’m not a jew …

  3. “Chortkiv has no Jewish cemetery anymore” – you are wrong. Chortkiv still has two more Jewish cemeteries: one is behind the Christian cemetery, and another one is at the hill near the bus station.
    Reason to come back some day 🙂

      • 1) New cemetery is more or less here, at the hill: 49°00’29.0″N 25°48’02.7″E ; there are more than 100 well-preserved gravestones (end of XIX century – XX century). Christian church was being built at the same hill last summer.
        2) I’ve never visited cemetery near the Christian one, which was used for burying Jews who died from infectious decease in 1914, but I was told where are near 20 gravestones there as well. Localization of Christian cemetery: 49°01’06.8″N 25°46’57.4″E. Jewish cemetery should be behind some wall. But where exactly – I’m not able to say.
        3) And the oldest Jewish cemetery you have visited already.

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