Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ukraine Trip Post #2--Day 2 (September 2, 2016)

(To see everything from my Ukraine trip, see here.)

We had spent the night in Shklyn, so we started driving through the town.  We saw two ladies on the side of the road, and one of them brought us to an older lady's home. She didn't recognize the name Fine, but when I said my great-great grandfather was Moshe Dovid Fine or Moshko, she got excited.  She said she remembered "Moshko the Jew" and said he was a very nice man.  She would be taking care of her cow, and he would stop and say hi to her.  She remembers when his family would come to visit him in Shklyn.
View from across the road from my great-great grandfather's house

She gave us directions to the other side of town where he had lived and gave us the name of a 98-year-old lady who lived in that area who should remember him. Unfortunately that woman had dementia and wasn't able to communicate, but her next door neighbors brought us to another old lady who remembered the family--and also said what a nice man he was--and told us he had lived two properties down.  She said he'd had a small shop where he sold goods.

The ladies walked us to the site where he lived .  The property was overgrown, and there was a house, but they said it wasn't the original house--however the remnants of his cellar and well were still there.
Well in the yard of my great-great grandfather, Moshe Dovid Fine

Then another woman named Zhenya came over. She had been the shabbos goy for the Fine family and remembered getting candy. She remembered the names Sara (my grandmother) and Bayla (my grandmother's aunt) and said that many people lived in the house--likely after my grandmother's family moved to Shklyn when the Russians entered the vicinity.
Zhenya, my great-great grandfather's Shabbos goy

We waded through the weeds and they showed the ruins of Moshko's house and his well. There were also pear and apple trees that were there before the war when he lived on that property.
Moshe Dovid Fine's pear trees
Zhenya said that one girl had survived from Moshko's family--this would be my grandmother!

We then headed to Senkevychivka.  This was the town where the Jews from all of the surrounding villages (including Biscupice/Berezhanka and Shklyn) were forced into a ghetto.  My grandmother's aunt Sara Fine Wallach had lived there before the war as well.  We were directed to the memorial for Jews who were killed here in 1942, which included many of my family members.
Senkevychivka memorial at mass killings site

We then chased down leads to a Jewish cemetery, most of which led us to a churchyard. We finally went to the town hall, and they said there wasn't a Jewish cemetery in the town. They also recognized the name Wallach (my grandmother's aunt's family) and said that there was a Wallach lady who lived there until recently.
Senkevychivka Train Station

Since we hadn't found a cemetery in Senkevychivka, and since yesterday we had been told that the Jewish cemetery for area had been in Senkevychivka or Skirche, we headed to Skirche. We found the cutest library, but they also said there were only Polish and Czech cemeteries in the area.
Skirche's adorable library

We almost left but were told there was a woman who was writing a history of the area.  She invited us into her home and told us what she knew about the Jews of the area.  She said that before the war, Skirche had five Jewish families in the town. The Germans took them to Torczyn where most of them were killed.
Skirche's local historian
She told about some of the families who lived in Skirche before WWII (but didn't remember family names) and that a few individuals did survive and moved to Lviv.  One man (Berko) owned a tavern; he was killed during the war.  Other names included Rivka and Leizer.  There was no cemetery that she knew of in Skirche.  If anyone is interested in details, I recorded the majority of our conversation.
Welcome to Horochiv--notice that a Ukrainian symbol is drawn on the Soviet soldier's helmet!

In Horochiv, we talked to a lady (born 1931) who told us all about the Jews who had lived in the town as well as what happened to many of them.  She said that a Jewish boy was shot in her family's kitchen garden after he had escaped from the ghetto to find food; her family snuck out at night to bury him.  She also talked about a German who shot at a mother and her child and missed.  The child started giggling, thinking it was a game.  That German couldn't shoot again after hearing the giggle--but he gave his gun to another Nazi who killed the mother and child.  She didn't understand why Jews didn't run more.

She said that a Jewish couple named Josef and Freide lived across the street from her, and they had a curly-haired boy named Chaim.  She was their Shabbos goy and helped with their fire.  She remembered eating matzah and thought it was a very unusual food and a special treat.  She would babysit Chaim and remembers making him a wreath out of some weeds, and they got tangled in Chaim's hair.  Freide couldn't get it out and had to cut it out; the woman felt awful.  Josef was religious, and she remembers his swaying back and forth when he was praying.  They had a 2-room house.  She couldn't remember the family's last name.

Lady speaking to us in Horochiv
Another (younger woman) heard stories from her father who told her that there was a ghetto, and Jews were put in trucks and taken out into the field.  Her father was a shepherd at the time, and the Nazis told him to move his animals.  He heard the shots as they all were killed.

We found my grandmother's old school right in the center of town.
My Grandmother Sonia Diamond's School Building
We also went to the nearby town museum where we met the museum's director who brought us lots of old pictures which had the shul (synagogue) in it; it was destroyed in WWII.
Horochov's former shul (synagogue)
We then passed by what used to be the Jewish cemetery--but which is now entirely covered by cement and serves as the local market.
This market is the site that used to be Horochiv's Jewish cemetery

And then we went to the Holocaust memorial.  It is located on the outskirts of town on the site where many of the town's Jews were killed.  Weeds are taking it over, and we had to push them down to even get a photo.  A translation of the inscription is, "At this place in September 1942, German fascist invaders executed over 3,000 residents of Horochiv and neighboring villages.  Eternal glory."
Horochov's Holocaust Memorial

As we were heading back to Lviv for Shabbos, we made a few stops.  First we stopped at Stoyaniv cemetery which wasn't far from the main road.  It had high grass and only a few visible tombstones, but I photographed the ones we found.  These photographs can all be seen here.
Stoyaniv Cemetery

When we drove through Radekhiv, we saw what used to be the shul (synagogue).  It now houses various shops.
Radekhiv Shul
Then back to Lviv.  I met up with my friend Beth there, and she tagged along for the rest of the trip.
Meeting up with Beth in Lviv

We ate Shabbos lunch at the house of Rabbi and Mrs. Bald and family and spent a wonderful afternoon there.  Later in the afternoon, Beth and I walked into the town center and were shown around by Alex and his friend.  And then that night we set out by train; stay tuned!

So where was I geographically?

Towns mentioned in this post

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  1. Lara Thankyou for sharing your amazing journey!

  2. I am enjoying every moment of your fantastic trip! It's tinged with sadness because of the history, but what an opportunity to meet a few people who remember your family.

  3. I got the chills, thinking of you seeing where your grandfather lived and went to school. Just amazing.