May 24 was the longest day of our journey. 400 kilometers on Ukrainian roads can be challenging for drivers and passengers but we were glad to find the roads in much better condition than expected. Our route included the impressive Jewish cemetery of Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Khotyn fortress and Jewish heritage sites in Buchach and Chortkiv. Originally not planned was a stop in Kamianets-Podilskyi – one of the largest mass killing sites from the time of the German occupation.
Our day began with a visit to the Jewish cemetery of Mohyliv-Podilskyi. I have been there several times. The new part of the cemetery, which extends to the present, is pleasingly large. But what fascinates me every time anew, is the enormous density of tombstones in the old part.
We stopped for a moment at Khotyn Fortress and relaxed over coffee and hot dogs. The fortress is part of the chain of fortifications that Steven the Great had built to protect the Moldavian principalities against the Ottoman neighbours. Here was always borderland.
Our friend and driver Vasyl recommended a slightly more northern route towards Ivano-Frankivsk than originally planned. In Kamianets-Podilskyi we therefore had the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge of our fellow traveler Uwe. As a historian Uwe has researched the mass murder of the Jews of Kamianets-Podilskyi in August 1941 and the subsequent cover-up of the traces in the “Sonderaktion 1005” in 1943. Kamianets-Podilskyi is one of the places where the SS crossed the borderline from terror to genocide in the summer of 1941. Here alone, there have been up to 23,000 victims. I was touched by the toys that were left by visitors at the monument on top of one of the ash pits.
I have photographed the synagogues of Chortkiv several times and the New Synagogue will even be the cover of my new book to be published in September. So I will not post more pictures. A real discovery, however, were two clearly visible traces of mezuzot on the doorframes of houses near the market.
I had found the Jewish cemetery of Buchach about a year ago in good condition, now it is already overgrown again. Another evidence of the need for sustainable cemetery care solutions.
Late in the evening we reached Ivano-Frankivsk. Tomorrow would be the last day of our journey.
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