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Keidan visit

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  • Ben-Tsion
    Shalom, I have just returned from a three weeks stay in Lithuania, during which I also visited Keidan. I want to inform you about the changes I found there
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 15, 2005
      Shalom,

      I have just returned from a three weeks stay in Lithuania, during which I
      also visited Keidan. I want to inform you about the changes I found there
      since my last visit six years ago.

      There are really quite positive changes, as the reconstruction of the big
      synagogue and the study house (Beis-Ha'midrash). My visit day was Sunday,
      and therefore those buildings were closed, but from an outside view, they
      seemed impressive. On the other hand, I found the wooden statues standing in
      front of the synagogue quite obscure and unnecessary, while there were
      missing basic explanatory tablets to inform the visitor about the history of
      those Jewish important buildings.

      As my ancestors had been buried in the small Keidan cemetery, I went with my
      son there to pray "El Ma'le Rachamim" near their tombs. We didn't go through
      the main street (Gedimino st.), but rather besides the Christian cemetery,
      from which there is a way climbing directly to the Jewish one. This time
      there was a small bridge above the Smilga stream, and we could pass it
      without any risk of mud and water. I was surprised to find a new blue fence
      around the cemetery, with an open gate, and most important - the high
      vegetation was mowed, and the access to all the tombs was comfortable. But
      there are still some problems: I found few fallen tombstones (I tried to do
      something about it, but it was so heavy, so...), and I also noticed that
      some stones became tilted, so I believe that this situation will become
      worse in the future. During our stay in the cemetery, an old local woman
      came to speak with us. She told me that she is "half-Jewish" (later I was
      told by my relative, living in Vilna, and expertising in Jewish cemeteries
      in Lithuania, that no Jew or half-Jew were left in Keidan in our days...),
      and explained me the history of the Jewish cemeteries in Keidan.

      Till now - I told you the positive news. But there are also bad ones too. As
      in my previous visit, I intended to visit the mass grave of Keidan. Then I
      walked through a small long path in the field, which brought me directly to
      the right place. But no more! Now you can't find this path any more, and
      there is almost no chance to find the right place, especially that you have
      to struggle through a high wild vegetation. Luckily, I remembered, more or
      less, the right direction, and we succeeded at last to find the mass grave
      (there are no people around, so there is no chance to get the relevant
      information). I think, and all of you surely agree with me, that it is a
      shame that such an important place for the memory of the Jewish Keidan is
      "hidden" and "burried" in a wild field without any sign.

      I intended to write about those good and bad matters to the mayor of Keidan,
      but I understood from my mentioned relative that it is only a question of
      money. So, I think that the application should be forwarded to higher
      national authorities.

      New few photographs of our visit are now on the Keidan web site.

      Ben-Tsion Klibansky
    • lynn lubamersky
      Dear Ben-Tsion Klibansky, If you had been able to go into the big synagogue, you would have found the building to be very nicely renovated (not restored. I
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 15, 2005
        Dear Ben-Tsion Klibansky,
        If you had been able to go into the big synagogue, you
        would have found the building to be very nicely
        renovated (not restored. I don't know what it looked
        like before, so I don't know what a restoration would
        be like). It has beautifully finished wooden floors
        and is painted white inside and out. There were
        museum exhibits held in there, but there is no
        permanent exhibition. Perhaps people from the Keidan
        list could work together with the people of the town
        to build a permanent exhibition there that would
        include the important information about the Jewish
        community and its centuries-long existence in the
        town.

        You wrote, "During our stay in the cemetery, an old
        local woman came to speak with us. She told me that
        she is "half-Jewish" (later I was told by my relative,
        living in Vilna, and expertising in Jewish cemeteries
        in Lithuania, that no Jew or half-Jew were left in
        Keidan in our days...), and explained me the history
        of the Jewish cemeteries in Keidan." I think that it
        is very wrong for you to refute what this woman told
        you. Keidan/Kedainiai was an area ravaged by
        deportations and violence not just against the Jewish
        people but against many other innocents who had the
        misfortune to be living there. Perhaps this women
        spent WWII in the Soviet Union (perhaps deported to
        the gulags, as millions were) and returned after the
        war. Also, many people moved back to Lithuania since
        1991. Several times on the street in Vilnius I heard
        Yiddish spoken. I would imagine that some people were
        tourists and others might have moved back there. I
        have met Jews both in Kovno/Kaunas, Vilnius/Vilna, and
        in Keidan.

        Could you please post the directions to the mass grave
        site? I intend to go there next year and I do not
        know the way. Regarding a monument at this site, I
        suggest that you send your letter also to the
        Borderlands foundation. You can see the website with
        their annual report below. The Nobel-prize-winner
        Czeslaw Milosz is from a village very near Kediainai,
        and he was very interested in highlighting the
        co-existence of many communities in this area. It was
        partly his initiative to start this foundation. The
        Borderland foundation was among the most signficant
        partners in renovating the synagogue in Kediainai.

        http://www.pogranicze.sejny.pl/archiwum/english/found/found.htm

        I would imagine that the mandate of this foundation
        would include commemoration of sites where the Jewish
        community was martyred. They would be very interested
        in your report of your visit and your input into their
        activities. Thanks for your report.
        -Lynn Lubamersky

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      • Ben-Tsion
        Dear Lynn, You asked about the directions to the mass grave site. So, you have to climb by Dotnuva street ( Dotnuva gatve in Lithuanian) till you come to the
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 15, 2005
          Dear Lynn,

          You asked about the directions to the mass grave site. So, you have to climb
          by Dotnuva street ("Dotnuva gatve" in Lithuanian) till you come to the end
          of it - close to the Christian cemetery. When this cemetery is on your left,
          you have to go straight into the open field. But in front of you there is an
          obstacle of an artificial hill and a small stream of water. So, by-pass it
          from its right (about twenty meters to the right), and then return back to
          the main direction, and go directly through the open field. You will see a
          group of high trees about a km in front of you (there are such few groups,
          so try to locate the highest one), and you have to find your way to this
          place.

          But if you intend to go there in the next year, there may appear some
          directing sign till then, as my Vilna relative told me that a British
          parliament member donated about 100,000$ to sign all the Jewish mass graves,
          and half of the work is already done...

          Following your suggestion, I forwarded my report to the Borderlands
          foundation.

          Ben-Tsion Klibansky
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