From Zhytomyr to Berdychiv

To travel to Berdychiv was my desire since a long time. Today my friends and I went from Zhytomyr to Berdychiv – having a look on the Jewish heritage sites of both cities. Berdychiv’s Jewish cemetery is one of the most spectacular sites I’ve ever seen.

Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I left the hotel early in the morning and made our way to Zhytomyr’s last functioning synagogue. To our surprise we found a new building, integrating an older brick building into its modern architecture. Constructing works have not been finished, but the site gives prove of Zhytomyr’s well doing Jewish community. After a short stop at the former prayer house of the water carriers – now an apartment building – we went on to the Jewish cemetery and found a very well maintained place. It is interesting to see how the post-war tombstones slowly overgrow the old stones.

Berdychiv is not far away from Zhytomyr – a short ride of 40 kilometers. Even under Soviet rule, Berdychiv was supposed to be a Jewish town. Today it is a target of Hasidic pilgrimage. Beggars at the cemetery gate welcome foreigners with “shalom”. The site offers an extraordinary view. There are some tombstones from the post-war era, but most stones are older. They all have a characteristic “boot-like” sthape – seemingly a regional style. The whole site appears like a big sculpture.

In the town center we found the former Great Synagogue – now a warehouse. Next to it is a smaller synagogue connected to an Hasidic pilgrim center. In a short distance is located what remained of Berdychiv’s old Jewish cemetery – a single reconstructed grave of a Tsaddik in a public park. In the backyard of the Carmelite Monastery is a small memorial for “Soviet citizens” murdered by the Germans, built over a mass grave. Nothing indicates they were Jews.

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5 thoughts on “From Zhytomyr to Berdychiv

  1. Christian, thank you so much for sharing your journey. As always, it is wonderful “accompanying” you. Your photographs are magnificent. They are beautiful but also evoke profound sadness.

    Best regards and safe travels to you, Marla, Jay, et al.

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