UKRAINE

Trip dates: July 23 to August 1, 2005

Sites around Lviv, Transcarpathia, and Kyiv

St. Volodomyr cathedral, Kyiv, Ukraine

For years we had talked about going to Ukraine. Specifically, we wanted to visit Stryy, in a portion of western Ukraine that had been part of Poland at the time that Merry's grandmother, Rose Igel, emigrated in 1920. What finally prompted us to make this trip were the dramatic and inspiring events of November and December, 2004, when Ukrainians stood up for their democratic rights against the incumbent government's attempt to steal a presidential election While witnessing from afar the events of the Orange Revolution, we decided to spend part of the summer, 2005, in Ukraine, seeing Stryy and Kyiv, as well as Lviv and the Carpathian Mountain region.

We arrived in Lviv via train—slow train—from Krakow, Poland. In Lviv we had arranged a private guide through Lviv Ecotour; we would never have been able to visit many of these places without our guide, Victor, who was super!

Besides seeing the synagogue where Merry's grandmother probably worshiped (we have at present little information on the family), and the remnants of the former Jewish shtetl in Stryy, we wanted to see the Transcarpathian region. This region had long fascinated Matthew because of its having shifted so many times between different countries (just in the last 100 years, it has been Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, and finally Ukraine) and its continuing—but declining—ethnic diversity. Good pages for background on the cultures of the region can be found on the Web, covering the Rusyns, and the wooden churches of the Lemko, Hutsul, and other communities. While in Transcarpahtia we also visited the remote border village of Slemenc, dubbed "the last piece of the Iron Curtain," because of its being split down the middle by the new border between the expanded European Union and Ukraine. But the number one reason for visiting Transcarpathia was to search for the rapidly diminishing Jewish communities of the region, specifically in the cities of Berehovo, Mukachevo, and Uzhhorod.

Shortly before we departed for our trip, we purchased and watched a wonderful movie called Carpati, made in 1994-95, which tells the life story of an Auschwitz survivor, Zev Godinger, who still lives in his native region of Transcarpathia. It also tells the story of the close connections between the Roma ("Gypsy") and Jewish communities, and particularly the role of the Roma in keeping alive the Jewish Klezmer music tradition. As David Notowitz, co-producer of the film, says, "The first time I set my eyes on this place I felt I was seeing a land forgotten by time." We had to see this place ourselves, and a few days before departing, we contacted both Mr. Notowitz and Yale Strom, the film's writer and director, about the possibility of looking up Zev. Neither had been in touch with him in some time, but they gave us information on how we might locate him. As you will see below, we were indeed able to find him and meet with him, and it was an incredible experience—one of our best travel experiences ever!

These photos, many with commentary attached, are organized as follows:

Jewish sites in Ukraine

Lviv and Zhovka (including the amazing Pink Synagogue)

Stryy

Berehovo, Mukachevo, and Uzhhorod (including meeting Zev Godinger)

Kyiv (including Babi Yar)

Sholom Aleichem tipping his hat in central Kyiv

General sites in Ukraine (churches, urban architecture, and rural scenery)

Lviv city scenes

Transcarpathia (including wooden churches and the Slemenc split village)

Kyiv city scenes

Taras Shevchenko overlooking Lviv's evening promenade

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