Otaci’s Jewish Cemetery

We left Moldova’s capital Chişinău in the morning of May 23, 2018, and headed north towards the border to Ukraine. Before border crossing we had a stop in the town of Otaci which was known as a transit point for deportees to the Romanian camps and ghettos in Transnistria during World War II. What is often failed to see, is that Otaci looks back on a long Jewish history. The cemetery in the nearby village of Vălcineţ is a reminder.

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Two Days in Bessarabia

It turned out to be difficult to report from the road when traveling with a big group and having a dense itinerary. Now, already back home, I have time to take up the narration. Last time I wrote from Chişinău on May 21 but did not report what we experienced there. On May 22 we were out for a day trip to Vadul Raşcov Jewish cemetery and the cave monasteries of Tipova – both magic places.

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On the Road to Chişinău

Yesterday, our group moved on through Bessarabia. In Bălţi we visited the magnificent Jewish cemetery and then went further south to the Moldovan capital of Chişinău. En route were the Jewish agricultural colony of Mărculeşti and Orhei with its imposing cemetery.

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From Bukovina to Bessarabia

Yesterday, we followed the traces of the Hasidic courts in Bukovina and neighbouring Galicia. We have been to the towns of Sadgora, Kuty and Vyzhnytsia – and the day before we saw how the renovation of the magnificent mortuary of Chernivtsi cemetery makes progress. Today, we went on to Bessarabia in the Republic of Moldova. Lipcani and Briceni were on our way to Bălţi, where we are right now. Now, in spring the Jewish cemeteries are beautiful enchanted gardens. Here are some photo impressions.

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From Lviv to Chernivtsi

Our journey through Galicia, Bukovina and Bessarabia goes on. During the last two days we went further south. Between the regional metropolises of Lviv and Chernivtsi we visited the towns and villages of Busk, Olesko, Brody, Skalat, Hrymailiv, Sataniv, Husiatyn, Chabarivka, Zalishchyky and Yuzhynets. What a trip!

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A new Experience

Today, a new journey to Jewish heritage sites has begun and it is different from all others before. I’m going to guide a group of 16 Germans through Galicia, Bukovina and Bessarabia in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. We started with day trips from Lviv – while one part of the group went to Drohobych and was guided there by the wonderful Tanya Firman, the other part went north to Zhovkva, Uhniv, Belz and Velyki Mosty.

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Transcarpathia is different

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.

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From the Flatlands to the Mountains

Our route lead us along the Romanian border today. We found Jewish heritage sites in Vynohradiv, Sasovo, Khust, Tiachiv, Teresva and Solotvyno – and beyond this the traces of literally collapsed industries and profitable smuggling activities.

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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.

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In Uzhhorod and Mukachevo

The damages to Jewish life are visible in the Transcarpathian towns of Uzhhorod and Mukachevo: synagogues used for other purposes than worship, a destroyed cemetery and the missing Jewish presence in public life due to mass deportation and extermination under Hungarian and German rule and later Sovietization. Nevertheless, there are rays of hope. In both towns we found functioning synagogues, active communities and well maintained cemeteries.

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