In the Borderlands to Hungary and Romania

Our Transcarpathia trip goes on. South of Mukachevo are towns and villages with traces of a rich Jewish heritage. Berehove is known for it, but we also found traces in Irshava, Velyki Komiaty, Khmilnyk, Siltse and Kamyanske – cemeteries and synagogues, and in Velyki Komiaty even the remains of a wooden synagogue.

From Mukachevo we headed south to Berehove, a scenic town and center of the regional Hungarian minority. Many shop and street signs are bilingual in Ukrainian and Hungarian and on the streets you may heare more Hungarian spoken than Ukrainian. The visual impression of the town is similar – one does not feel like travelin in Ukraine, rather in Hungary.

There is a small synagogue in Berehove, a few years ago fully renewed, which is the center of a small but active Jewish community. Despite of Pesach preparations a sympathetic lady opened the synagougue for Marla, Jay, Vasyl and me and warmly welcomed us. What was once the Great Synagogue of Berehove is quite the opposite of this cozy community place – a brutal concrete block. Only a banner with fading color reminds passer-bys of the former purpose of what is now a „Culture House“.

Another spectecular site in Berehove is the Jewish cemetery. Located next to the Christian cemetery it represents an interesting mix of traditional tombstones and 19th century black granite stones, documenting the assimilation of local Jewery.

On the way to Irshava Vasyl suddenly pointed out of the window and said, ‘look, there is a Jewish cemetery’. And indeed, next to the village of Khmilnyk – directly at the road – there was a well fenced in Jewish cemetery, we had not on our list. This repeated another two times in the villages of Siltse and Kamyanske and made Vasyl our heroe today.

Further east, already very close to the Romanian border, the town of Irshava is situated. It looks poor and run down, so do the neighbouring villages. The former synagogue is now a boutique, the former purpose of the building is unrecognizable. When I took photos a lady came out, asking what I was doing. She never heared her shop was once a synagogue. The cemetery we found in good conditions.

The former synagogue in Velyki Komiaty is special – one of the very last surviving wooden synagogues of Ukraine. But the state of the building is so bad, it probably can not been saved. Also the cemetery is in poor condition. It is well fenced in but is rather a garbage deposite. We returned to Berehove with mixed emotions.

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