Further East

My friends Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I continued our journey through Volhynia. Today, Jewish heritage sites in Rivne, Ostroh, Slavuta and Shepetivka were on our itinerary. It also was a day with exceptional people we met.

The former Jewish quarter of Rivne was located in a few meters distance from our hotel. We just had to cross the street to stand in front of the former Great Synagogue – now used by a sports club and by shops. Next to it is Rivne’s last functioning synagogue – the Old Kloyz. There we met Victoria who was so kind to introduce us to the rabbi. Viktoria is a local historian, deeply devoted to Rivne’s Jewish past. She took us on a short tour, showed us were Herzberg’s Beit Midrash, the Talmud Tora and a former Mikvah are situated. Thank you Viktoria, for your hospitality and for sharing your knowledge and your passion for history with us!

In Ostroh we were already expected by Hryhoriy. He has saved about 1.000 tombstones from construction grounds and returned them to the Jewish cemetery which was bulldozed in 1968. But he not only returned them to the cemetery, he also re-erected them at the places were they belong. Since some years Hryhoriy reconstructs Ostroh’s magnificent synagogue and made big progress with this project. The garbage was removed, a new roof set up and parts of the facade renovated. When I was in Ostroh in 2014 I saw the ruin of a synagogue – now we can observe a resurrection.

We went further east to Slavuta. There is a still functioning synagogue. By accident we found a memorial for the ghetto and the murdered Jews of the town – including 300 children who were killed. Outside Slavuta is another memorial for Holocaust victims and one of the most horrible sites of suffering in all of Ukraine: Großlazaret 301, a camp for Soviet prisoners of war, in which 150.000 soldiers died from typhus and starvation – they were left by the Germans without any medical treatment. The site is huge – filled with buildings partly still in use, partly in decay.

The sun was already sinking when we reached the town of Shepetivka. We had a look at the Great Synagogue – obviously still used by a Jewish community – and the Jewish cemetery, a densly overgrown location. It was dark when we arrived in Polonne. There was not enough light to identify the places we were looking for and this teached us to be more realistic with our plans for tomorrow.

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7 thoughts on “Further East

  1. Thanks for sharing. My grandfather was born in Mezhirichi near Rivne (Mezhirichi in the Koretskyi raion).He immigrated to Boston in the US in the 1920s and changed his name from Benzion Nissenholtz to Ben Gold. I have been researching his family’s history for many years; He had cousins in Rivne. I founded a Facebook group for descendants of the Jewish community of Mezhirichi. It’s fascinating to see the pictures of Rivne and the Rivne area. I read Amos Oz’s book A Tale of Love and Darkness about his mother’s childhood in Rivne. I also read a history of the family of Leonard Bernstein by his brother Burton: their father Samuel was born in Berezdiv, their mother Jennie in Sheptevoka.

  2. Dear Ivy, Thanks for reading, To use the GRATE SYNAGOGUE to play its an insult for JEWS.. The UKRAINIAN government has to return this building.

  3. My knowledge of geography is not very good. I am interested in finding out more about Bukovina. Is this in Galicia? Is it in the East? Thank you so much for this wonderful information.

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