- here is a diary of my trip. I have lots of photos that I will share later. If anyone is interested in the other countries I visited, please let me know. It was an amazing experience from seeing family, sightseeing, and exploring my ancestral roots going back to the 18th century homes and graves.
6/3-5; 10 Flew to Lviv. Met Alex Dunai, guide for trip. Alex handed me a set of archival records of family members that I had requested in advance. He showed me various parts of city, which is quite beautiful. We stayed in Opera Hotel which is next to Opera House, a very beautiful building inside and out.
We went to the Chabad synagogue, which had a very beautiful interior, and had been recently restored. We met Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Bald and his wife, Sarah, who were both very friendly. The Synagogue had been built in 1920s. Not only had the synagogue been restored but so had its paintings, both of which were very beautiful. It has several hundred members, but only a handful generally come to services. The members are mostly Russian and eastern Ukranians who had moved to Lviv.
Visited archives, in old abbey building. Met with director, Pelts Diana Ivanivna, who knew Alex well. She understood English but did not speak it. I requested death record for Sime Hausner, gggrandmother, will see upon return. Their staff has been cut significantly so processing is slower.
Visited several places where Bernard Hausner, Gideon’s father and our cousin, lived and worked.
Went to memorials for Jewish ghetto, and to Janowska death camp, where over 200,000 Jews lost their lives
Visited town of Zolkiev, about 45 minutes away from Lviv, which had been 50% Jewish. Some of houses had been designed by same architect as Golden Royz synagogue in Lviv. Very pretty town and buildings.
Alex also took us to museum with history of religion. A number of Jewish items, as well as Armenian Church, Ukranian church, etc.
Traveled to Borschiv via Ternopil which had a synagogue, town of 200,000, half Jewish at one time. My great-grandfather was born in Borschiv and his father died there.
In Borschiv, met Dymtro, caretaker for Skala cemetery , his wife and son, Oleg,
Wife’s grandparents saved Max Mermelstein, President, Skala Benevolent Society, 1960-present.
Dymtro was a teacher for 43 years and his son also taught there for awhile and was vice-principal. Went to see Borschiv monument. Monument reads (not exact words):
Bypassers stop for a moment at this mass grave where are buried several thousand Jews that inhabited Borschiv, Skala, Mielnitsa, Korolivka and Ozerany. Tortured to death by Nazis from 1941-43. Say a prayer for the rest of their souls and that this never happens to anybody.
Big cracks on side of monument, plus letters somewhat faded. As previously reported the mass grave had been turned into a soccer field.
On to Skala. Drove through Main Street, then to fortress, looked over river Zbrucz. Found zalman’s house. In major disrepair, not like photos from 13 years ago by Cousin Evelyn. Owned by woman now living in Russia. Found Fanya’s grandfather’s house. Took photos of houses belonging to Jews using map supplied by Max Mermelstein. Then drove over to Stare Skala (old skala).
Checked into hotel in Skala, which has only 5 rooms and has large ornate gnomes located in several points outside the building. We then went to cemetery and took 80 photos of gravestones. It was very difficult navigating much of the cemetery because the grass was at least hip deep, if not greater, and many of the graves were hidden under the grass.
Met with Dymtro at the cemetery, and construction engineer that he brought along. Cemetery wall in bad shape. They prepared in Ukranian a list of repairs needed. While there, two men were cutting grass and weeds, which were quite high in many parts of cemetery. Alex, Toba and I finished taking photos of all gravestones on both sides.
Revisited Jewish houses to make sure all photographed.
Went to Kamyanets Podilskyy, now a city of 100,000 people and which at one time had been a large Jewish city. Visited castle in a beautiful setting on top of hill. Saw former synagogue and Jewish homes in center of town.
Back in Skala, visited Count Goluchowski’s Estate, which is now quite run down, but at least some buildings are still in use. Building near entrance appeared to be a clinic. Large building further back had lots of kids in it, appeared to be some event where food was being served. Count was Minister of Austria, very wealthy, used Jews to handle financial affairs and treated them well.
Looked at Skala hotel spa that some have said was formerly part of a mikvah; Alex didn’t think so, just water from same source. I wanted to give some books to the Skala Mayor, but he was out of town, so instead, gave books to mayor’s secretary at town hall. Books were Skala on the River Zbrucz (Skala Yizkor Book translated); and My Grandfather’s Acres by Isaac Metzger, fictional story of life for Jews in villages near Skala in 1880s, fairly accurate picture of life during that time period. I wanted a close view of the River Zbrucz, so I climbed down the embankment to photograph the river.
Went to Mielnitsa, birthplace of my great-grandmother. There were two areas where gravestones located, but there were very few in each place.
Went to Chortkiv. Many gravestones hidden in deep woods. Photographed many. Synagogue in center, now children’s activity center. Many Hausners lived in this town, and at least some were relatives. Birthplace of Bernard Hausner, father of Gideon Hausner.
Drove to Ivano-Frankivsk, (formerly known as Stanisławów) which now has a population of 240,000. It had been 40% Jewish at one time. Current community hall once housed many Jewish merchants. Former Jewish school, both old and new buildings, was now a college.
Met with Rabbi Moishe Leib Kolesnik, Hasidic rabbi of Synagogue built in 1890s. Only synagogue outside of Lviv in western Ukraine. He had grown up in area, but trained in Leningrad. Very small attendance at services. Building is very beautiful outside, but fairly simple inside.
He has small congregation. Was very pleasant, gave me several documents. He helped restore Kalush cemetery along with support from the company “Dead Sea Works, Inc.”, which had done some work in Kalush. The company makes potash from the Dead Sea.
Drove to Kalush, picked up Baptist Priest Roman Revak in center of Kalush. He lives in Galena, not far from Kalush, but he had once lived in Kalush. He had taken bus to reach Kalush since his car had broken down a few weeks ago. He obviously went out of his way to meet with us. I thought he had some familiarity with the cemetery, which is why I had suggested meeting, but turned out not so much. Kalush is where Osias Hausner lived at one time. He was grandfather to my great-grandfather Zalman.
Cemetery had iron fence built around much of it, but not entire area. Monument at entrance to cemetery. Much of marble (or some kind of stone) at base had been removed. At the site of the monument had been a mass grave for many Jews killed by the Nazis. Very large number of head stones in cemetery, and Alex and I photographed quite a few. Very tall grass and weeds so hard to get around.
Many pretty formerly Jewish homes in center of town. Large pink building had been a music school.
Had pizza lunch in Galena with Roman. Pizza was very good. Pleasant conversation. Privott who introduced me to him teaches periodically management course at Baptist seminary in SW Ukraine, where Roman had studied. He travels to a couple of other towns every week for a few days where he also administers. When we dropped Roman off, met his kids, Olya, who is graduating high school and whom I had spoken with on phone. She speaks English well, had spent summer at camp with American kids last year in Ukraine. Other kids were daughter Natalie, 15, and younger sons Andrew 12and Maryan, 10.
6/10-30 Rest of trip included Poland, Czech Republic, Vienna, and Italy, to see where other family was from.
Silver Spring, MD
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