Yesterday was the last day of our 5 days trip through Transcarpathia. We visited Jewish and non-Jewish heritage sites in Bila Tserkva, Velykyi Bychkiv, Rakhiv, Yasynia, Halych and Bilshivtsi. On our way home we contemplated on what we saw and experienced. Transcarpathia differs in many aspects from Galicia.
Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I stayed over night in Dilove. In the morning we returned to the flatlands to visit the Jewish cemetery in the village of Bila Tserkva, which we found – as most cemeteries during this trip – in good condition. Not on our list was a pink building with a plaque, commemorating the deportation of the Bila Tserkva’s Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. I have no idea of the former purpose of the building – now it is a school.
In Velykyi Bychkiv we found both, a former synagogue and a cemetery. The synagogue is an Evangelical church now. At the front gable two lions are still visible – with an empty space between them. It seems the original tablets of law were removed, but I don’t know whether this happend in Soviet times or was done by the present Christian owners.
The Jewish cemetery in the town of Rakhiv is spectacular. It is situated at the outskirts on the steep slope of a hill, which makes the tombstones slide down. Through constant rain and over muddy paths we made our way to this picturesque place.
The village of Yasynia is known for its wooden church, part of the UNESCO world heritage list of Ukrainian wooden churches. We found it well visited on a Sunday in the pre-Easter time and got some blessings from visitors. Crossing the river over a shaky suspension bridge was not a pleasure for everyone – especially not to Marla and me.
We crossed the Carpathians and finally returned to Galicia. While driving we contemplated on what we experienced during the last days and what the differences between Transcarpathia and Galicia are. One difference are the national minorities of Romanians and Hungarians in these borderlands compared to the more or less homogenic Ukrainian Galicia. Concerning the Jewish heritage there are obviously more active communities and well maintained heritage sites compared to Galicia. Transcarpathia was under Hungarian occupation during Worl War II. Jews were deported in 1944 to Auschwitz – they were not killed in their hometowns. There were survivors in Auschwitz, but there were no survivors at the execution pits in Galicia and other places under German occupation.
After a short stop in Halych – to visit its cenic Karaite cemetery and 12th century Christian church – we headed forward to the town of Bilshivtsi to visit the local Jewish cemetery. Nearly nothing of the cemetery is preserved. There is a memorial for the town’s murdered Jews over a mass grave. We were back in Galicia.
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