Last Sunday, my friends and I continued our trip to Chernivtsi (Czernowitz). We had stops in Lysets, Bohorodchany, Nadvirna, Deliatyn, Kolomyia, Kosiv, Kuty and Vyzhnytsia to visit Jewish cemeteries, former synagogues, Hasidic courts and mass grave sites.
We got up early and were thinking of what to skip of our long itinerary. Eight stops seamed much to ambitious to us. It turned out we were very bad with skipping – and we were impressed by what we found.
Lysets is a small town next to Ivano-Frankivsk. Our GPS data for the Jewish cemetery led us into a residential area with picturesque farm houses. ‘You have to ask at a house with a yellow fence’, a man told us. An old lady welcomed us and guided us through her farm to a beautiful flower meadow. It took a while until we saw the first tombstones in the high grass. Silently we walked around. Lysets Jewish cemetery is a place where time stands still – an enchated garden.
Some kilometers further, Bohorodchany Jewish cemetery forms a strong contrast to what we found in Lystes. The cemetery was destroyed and built over with a factory. Only a new ohel and a newly set up tomb for a zaddik indicate here was a Jewish cemetery.
Clean-ups must have been going on at Nadvirna Jewish cemetery since my last visit in 2013. Trees and bushes have been removed but high grass and netels make the place nearly inaccessible. Graffitis of swastikas and other Nazi symbols are still visible on some of the tombstones but no new ones have been added.
Deliatyn is already situated in the Carpathians and the route to this small town is scenic. Our GPS data directed us into a forest where according to a Jewish heritage website a cemetery should be situated. Locals showed us the way but also said there is no cemetery but a mass grave. We stood silently in front of the memorial stones that was erected by descendants of survivors on the spot where Deliatyn’s Jews were murdered.
Kolomyia is an urban center half way between Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi. I had been there before but never explored the Jewish cemeteries or the former Jewish quarter. The so called New Jewish Cemetery became a collecting point for tombstones deriving from construction grounds. Some of them have been arranged to controversial wall-like monuments. We found the old cemetery locked and strolled through the neighboring streets. In Orenstein Street we saw the remains of a former synagogue and traces of mezuzot – Jewish home blessings – on some of the door frames.
We approached further to Kosiv, once home of an important Hasidic court. We found the cemetery locked and stayed only for a short time. Spontaneously we decided to change our route. Instead of going to Zabolotiv and Sniatyn we choosed Kuty and Vyzhnytsia as last destinations on our way to Chernivtsi. Both towns are part of the ‘Hasidic wonderland’ at the foot of the Carpathians with all its legends about the Baal Shem Tov and other miracles doing rabbis. What began with the magic of Lysets in the morning and ended with the enchanting cemeteries in the border lands between Galicia and Bukovina. Looking at the tombstones in Kuty and Vyzhnytsia we watched lions, deer, griffons and unicorns…
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