We returned from Moldova to Ukraine on March 4. It was truly a day of miracles. We saw the stunning Jewish cemeteries of Edineț, Otaci, Chernivtsi (Podolia, not Bukovina) and Mohyliv-Podilsky. We found the synagogue in Chernivtsi, left behind by Jews leaving the former Soviet Union after 1991. In Sharhorod we talked to Hryhoriy Saulko, who wants to restaurate the magnificent synagogue of his hometown and already started to do.
Marla, Jay, Vasyl, Iryna, Anna and I spent the night in a hotel in Edineț in the north of the Republic of Moldova. In the morning we went to the Jewish cemetery and were again surprised by its size and the beauty of stone carvings. Nevertheless, what is even more stunning is the cemetery of Otaci – one of the oldest and most beautiful in Moldova. The cemetery is well maintained by an elder couple, living next to its gate. we took our time to photograph the decorative reliefs.
Without any trouble we crossed the border into Ukraine and reached Mohyliv-Podilsky, during Worl War II one of the most notorious ghettos. What is often missed out is, that Mohyliv had a vibrant Jewish community before the war. The huge Jewish cemetery is a witness of this past.
Many of you will be familiar with Chernivtsi/Czernowitz in Bukowina and its rich history. But there is also a second town by the same name further east in Podolia – now Vinnytsia oblast. While its surroundings always had been Ukrainian, the town’s center had been Jewish. Even after the war there was a substantial Jewish community. Most of them left after the implosion of the Soviet Union – leaving their homes behind. Parts of the town center are a ghost town. We spoke to an elderly woman. “I’m probably the youngest one here”, she said, “all the young people left”. What I did not know, when I was in Chernivtsi with my dear friend Sylvia de Swaan in 2016 is, that there is also a synagogue. It took us a while but we found it.
In Sharhorod we were already expected by Hryhoriy Saulko (Григорій Саулко). Hryhoriy runs a very interesting little hotel in a part of a 19th century factory – definitely worth to stay when you once visit Sharhorod. Hryhoriy knows the history of his hometown well and is one of the activists, who would like to contribute to the restauration of the unique fortress synagogue. Parts of the roof have already been renewes and Hryhoriy is looking for funds to continue the work. People like him are a miracle. Without any personal benefit they feel committed to the heritage of their town – Jewish or not. Everyone of you can contribute to this by donating, by helping to make contacts or by promoting this work.
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