On the morning of 2 April, Yuliya, Anna and I set off for Alytus. A 6-day road trip to Jewish places of remembrance in Lithuania lay ahead of us. The first day took us through the border region of Belarus. Eišiškės, Varėna, Merkinė, Daugai, Butrimonys, Balbieriškis and Alytus were on our route.
The visit to the memorial in Paneriai on 4 March was the most difficult part of the trip through Lithuania. Paneriai is a suburb of Vilnius with extensive forests. The German occupiers turned it into a murder site. More than 100,000 people were killed there – mainly Jews, many of them from Vilnius ghetto, but also Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Roma and Lithuanians.
When I told my Ukrainian friends, I would travel to Belarus, they all said ‘oh, it’s so tidy there’. Yes it is. But beyond tidiness, excellent roads, overwhelming hospitality and good hotels, there is also more to discover: a rich and diverse history, of which the Jewish component is an important part. For 12 days, my friends Achim, Petra, our knowledgable and charming tour guide Juliana Mikolutskaya and I explored the Jewish heritage sites in the west of the country. We started in Minsk on 19 April.
On 2 March our little group continued the road trip through the Republic of Moldova. We headed east, crossed the Russian checkpoint near Dubăsari, and entered the internationally not recognized break away “republic” of Transnistria – rarely visited by western travelers. On our itinerary were Dubăsari and Raşcov before we crossed the “border” again to see the Jewish cemetery of Vadul Raşcov.
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.
A new journey through Ukraine has begun. From tomorrow on Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I will be on the road to and through Transcarpathia. Today we had a first excursion from Lviv to the neighboring village of Lysynychi, one of the biggest mass killing sites in Ukraine and one of the most unknown. Estimated 90,000 people have been murdered here during the German occupation in World War 2 – mainly Jews but also Ukrainians, Poles and thousands of Italian soldiers. Except of a little memorial there are no visible traces of the crime. To visitors with no background information Lysynychi forest looks just like an ordinary forest.
Yesterday, it was raining all day long when my friends and I returned to Lviv. En route were the towns of Turka, Khyriv, Ralivka and Mykolaiv. I also took the opportunity to photograph the synagogues in Sambir and Staryi Sambir under different light conditions.Continue reading
A new journey has begun. During the next days, I will travel with my friends Marla, Jay and Vasyl in Ukraine again. A journey that will bring us to places widely unknown to many. How complete is our “inner map”? And how complete is our map of murderous actions in the 20th century? One of the missing spots is the site of Janowska concentration camp in a suburb of Lviv.
Mizoch (Mizocz) is a small town in Volhynia. The population was composed of Ukrainians, Poles and Jews – until World War II. The scars of the past are still visible in Mizoch; the town’s center remained half empty until the present day.
Since today I’m back home, but I have still to report on our last excursion, which led us into the Ukrainian borderlands with Poland, to Velyki Mosty, Belz and Uhniv.Continue reading