from our four-day tour from Lemberg/Lwów and Galicia, organized by us together with the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association. We have roamed about the old town of Lwów, we have followed the path of the hidden relics of the former Jewish quarter, we have witnessed in the cemetery of Lyczaków – the Polish pantheon – the rivalry of the various monuments to define the identity of the city, and at the forced labor camp of Janowska, in front of the almost imperceptible plaque on the wall of the Kleparów railway station the men said kaddish for the five hundred thousand Galician victims deported from here to the death camp of Belżec. Setting out towards Tarnopol, we tracked down the two decaying synagogues in Chortkov, from where the community of the important Budapest synagogue at Teleki square – the former Chortkover Kloyz – comes, and the virtually unknown large Jewish cemetery in Buchach, the intellectual center of the former South Eastern Galicia, from where such figures come as Sigmund Freud and Simon Wiesenthal, the greatest early 20th-century Russian book publisher Josif Knebel and the first Nobel Prize of Hebrew literature Shmuel Yosef Agnon, whose birthplace – today with a memorial plaque – is perhaps the only house that survived the breakdown of the Jewish quarter and its synagogues accomplished in Soviet times. And on the last day we ran down in a partisan action a hundred kilometers to south to photograph the several hundred beautiful tombstones of the three Hasidic cemeteries laying at the border of Galicia and Bukovina. We will report in detail on all this in the following days.
A – Lemberg/Lwów; B – Czortków/Chortkiv; C – Buczacz/Buchach; D – Stanislawów/Ivano-Frankivsk; E – Kosev; F – Kuty; G – Vizhnitsa. See it full screen.
On the way home I asked our fellow travelers what touched them the most during the journey. Many of them told about the still almost palpable past time on the houses and squares and in the inner courtyards of Lwów, the Polish and Yiddish shop labels unfolding from below the peeling plaster (which we will soon present on a map), and at the same time the still pulsating liveliness of the city. The picturesque solitude of the several thousand gravestones of the cemetery of Buchach stretching along the white dirt road outside the town. The discovery of the roots, from which so many strands of modern Jewish cultural life rise, and to which usually only unlocalizable and exotic names refer, and now they are here, visibly and palpably, in their own reality.
This inscription happens to be scraped out from below the plaster by ourselves… but more about this later.
Many people have suggested how willingly they would visit other places of the Eastern European region’s Jewish heritage with me as a guide. And I would willingly take other people to the places which I have been researching and visiting for years, either alone or in the company of Két Sheng, our Hebrew expert and Wang Wei, the great connoisseur of Spanish Jews. Considering the possibilities, the following ways have been outlined for the next months:
- Two more travels to Lemberg/Lwów: one at the weekend of 25 July, at the usual time of the yearly Klezmer festival of the city, and the other in September, when several people have time for it. Both would be four-day journeys, and in contrast to the present large Galician tour we would only visit the city in detail. If only a few people go, I will organize railroad sleeping cars, and if more, then an autobus from Budapest: of course whoever wants can come with his/her own car, too. I will try to find a cheap hotel in the center so that everyone could move freely without the bus as well.
- The renowned “way of the Jewish wine” from the Hungarian Tokaj to Southern Poland could be visited in two parts. The first one, the Hasidic settlements in the Tokaj wine region with their beautiful wooden synagogues and cemeteries can be visited in one or two days, while the way to the North through the Slovakian Košice, Prešov and Bardejov to Nowy Sącz in Poland – an important center of Polish Hasidism, which gave rabbis to several communities along the road – and the surrounding little towns in three more days: in case of a few participants with a small bus, and if much more come, then with a large one. The first such way would be organized around mid-July, and it could be repeated one or more times until the end of the autumn.
- Galician shtetl tours: the Jewish small towns from Lesko to Brody and the fortress synagogue of Lutsk to the Hasid cemeteries in Bukovina. This is a minimum of four-five day tour, by bus or by car, adjusted to the time and interest of the participants.
- Odessa and the Crimea: the great dream which everyone speaks with awe about, but the question is how many would actually undertake it. To do it all one needs at least a week, but what we would see worths the fee: the Jewish quarter of the city, the Moldavanka, the scene of Isaac Babel’s stories, the Karaite towns and cemeteries of the Crimea, on which we will write soon, the Orthodox and Armenian monasteries, the Khan’s palace in Bakhchisaray…
If you are interested in any of the above, write us in this week at firstname.lastname@example.org, suggesting a date as well. On the basis of the previous discussions and the proposals to be expected we will announce in the next week the final dates, routes and the expected costs. Of course, if you organize a group or a way for yourself, I willingly undertake to guide it as well. And in the meantime I continue publishing the reports on Lemberg/Lwów, Galicia and the region’s Jewish heritage, for which I will soon open a separate collective post. Keep with us.
All our posts on the Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage