The End of Silence

Thousands of Jewish tombstones were used as construction material in the Ukrainian city of Lviv – first by the German occupants during World War II, later by the Soviets. Sometimes they appear, and sometimes there are people who save them. Today, tombstones from a courtyard in downtown Lviv were returned to the Jewish cemetery by Sasha Nazar and his friends from Lviv Volunteer Center.

Some months ago a Polish visitor photographed a stairway made of Jewish tombstones in a backyard in Lviv. The photo went viral among those committed to the heritage of the Galician metropolis. It is not the first time, Jewish tombstones appear during construction works or just because people got aware of them. Last summer tombstones appeared during repair works in Barvinok Street and were removed to the Jewish cemetery.

Lviv had two Jewish cemeteries. Both were destroyed during the German occupation; what remained, was finally destroyed under Soviet rule. The tombstones were used to pave roads and squares – sometimes with their Hebrew inscriptions visible to by-passers. The recently discovered tombstones in the backyard of Halytska Square 15 fall into this category. Employees of the office building use the backyard for a cigarette break or cross it on their way to work. Nevertheless, the signs on the stairway and in the plaster of the yard were “invisible”. 70 years of silence – including the media companies in the building of Halytska Square, a television and a radio broadcaster.

This silence ended today when Sasha Nazar and the volunteers of Lviv Volunteer Center saved the tombstones of Halytska Square 15 and returned them to the Jewish cemetery. This happened under the eyes of local media – including three TV broadcasters. I wonder if there is any award for active citizenship in the city or the country. If so, Sasha and his brave volunteers deserve it. What they do is not only of importance for the Jewish heritage, it’s important for all of us – no matter who and what we are.

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7 thoughts on “The End of Silence

  1. Amazing efforts, both on your part (for highlighting such activity), and the locals speaking out & acting (to rectify past wrongdoings). Thank you ALL!!! I truly appreciate this.

  2. Are there photos of the stones that were found ? If so where can they be seen ? This is a great thing that you and those who put back are doing

  3. Indeed a brave act of activism and pure decency. Let’s hope this spirit spreads to other parts of Ukraine.
    Thank you for bringing this up, Christian.

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