At low Light

Yesterday, it was raining all day long when my friends and I returned to Lviv. En route were the towns of Turka, Khyriv, Ralivka and Mykolaiv. I also took the opportunity to photograph the synagogues in Sambir and Staryi Sambir under different light conditions.

Sunday morning in a rural area means: everything is closed and even our hotel did not serve breakfast before 10 am. We broke up early at 8, hoping to find an open café on our way back to Lviv. It was nearly noon until we found one – hungry as we were, we ordered half of the dishes from the menu.

Our first stop was in Turka. The light was so low, I had doubts I could take pictures. The cemetery is situated on a hill and is almost completely destroyed. A memorial tells about the sad end of Turka’s Jewish community. Turka synagogue is an imposing brick building, now a workshop. Next to it is a second brick building, possibly a former Beit Midrash. The gap between both buildings is now filled with a new structure by the present owner – a strange view.

Thanks to Jay’s copy of an old cadastral map we had no trouble to locate the space of the Jewish cemetery in the town of Khyriv. The cemetery was destroyed and build over with a kindergarten and a playground – a typical Soviet practice. All other buildings marked in Jay’s map are gone too – the Jewish School, the synagogue, the burial building of the cemetery.

Near the village of Ralivka is one of the biggest mass graves in Eastern Galicia. Thousands of Jews from Sambir ghetto were shot here by the Germans. A sign and markers tell this story. Empty bottles and other garbage indicates the place is popular for pick-nicks. The Lviv Volunteer Center has cleaned the place earlier this year, but new garbage appeared.

On the way back to Lviv, we had a short stop in Mykolaiv to visit the local Jewish cemetery. Vasyl and I had been there before but Marla and Jay not. The Christian and the Jewish cemetery are situated in direct neighbourhood. While there were no new burials at the Jewish cemetery after the German occupation, the Christian cemetery is permanently expanding. A sand quarry – once the site of a mass shooting – has recently been filled up to create space for new burials. No marker indicates what happened here. The mass grave deserves a marker, the entire history here deserves a marker.

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