I am so embarrassed.  Julia read my blog posts and saw that I wanted to go to Lviv, so everyone’s plans have changed for Tuesday – we are going to Lviv, with a classmate of Sergey’s (Taras) who knows the city – I am thrilled at being able to do this, but so embarrassed! I am consoling myself with the thought that as rain continues to be forecast and we have intermittent storms, such weather would definitely have a negative impact on our planned hike into the mountains and a day in Lviv would not be affected by weather like that.

Today, at the archives, we had an opportunity to search through the municipal archives looking for the house fire that took the lives of our Kreisler great-great grandparents.  We waded through records of loose water pipes, destruction of a house of ill-repute, budgets but nothing of a personal connection.  I was really hoping to get some verification and additional details of the story that Anshel, Betty’s father had told her, but in spite of going through volumes of municipal data and court proceedings, we found nothing at all.  I absolutely hate that there isn’t enough time to spend doing fun things with Ella, Julia, Sasha and Sergey and also to spend more time in the archives.  I know that when I leave I will have many regrets.  We didn’t go to the Trans-Carpathian area or to the Black Sea.  There are people I know Ella wanted me to meet that we didn’t have time to schedule.  There could have been twice as much time for us in the archives here and in Zhytomyr and Ternopil and it still wouldn’t have been enough.  I have been having so much trouble dealing with all the emotions that being here arouses, that enjoyable, relaxing time always has a pall over it, and it’s difficult for me to just be in a carefree mood.  I think that all the walking we do gives me some way to channel the emotions, and I rarely allow myself the luxury of crying, and never the luxury of screaming.  As much as I wanted someone from home to be here with me so we could easily and freely share what we are doing, it is much better for me to be here with Ella, without someone from home.  I think the emotions would rise to the surface too easily if there was someone with me that I knew well from another context.

Ella and I agree that it is one thing to know that someone died and another to have proof – we found the record of our great-grandmother and her children and grandchildren at the address at which they lived in 1941 with their i.d. numbers and a big “x” through their names which Ella and I took as proof of their slaughter.  We are asking the archives

Grass family

Grass family

to only make copies of a very few pages – those two records are pages we will definitely ask for.  It is chilling.  The reality is very difficult to deal with. My attitude now is as it has always been – as difficult as things like this are for us to deal with now, how much more difficult and horrible was it for the people who lived, or died in this place (these places).  We have an obligation to learn about this and see and feel.  Unlike Passover when we replicate the story of the exodus as much as we are able to, this does not have a happy outcome.  Although we could say that the very fact that Ella lives her with her mother, daughter and grandson, is in itself a happy outcome – that the plan didn’t succeed and they are proof of it, there is so much sadness and anguish here.

The very next book we picked up was a record of informers to the police department and payment to them in 1935. This has nothing to do with our relatives but the juxtaposition of informers for any purpose and the killings is eerie.

I had apparently misunderstood about the condition of the archives – they aren’t closing on August 1 – they are closed UNTIL August 1.  It is only due to the efforts and kindness of a very charming archivist who is working on her doctorate on the Holocaust in Ivano-Frankivsk that we have access to the building and to such a huge amount of material.  The building that we are sitting in doing research was in the hands of the Gestapo during the war.  The archivist took out a book to show me something and it was Miriam Weiner’s research book that I had used to find out where archival material in Ukraine was held!  She and I will share some material about the history of Stanislawow and the Shoah through her daughter who speaks English.  She says her doctoral work is discouraged at her workplace.

There are tiny notebooks filled with the names of people who suffered some damage, probably property damage during the Shoah, and long, long, interminably long typed lists of people who the Nazis interrogated.  Touching the crumbling pages and trying to decipher the typing made me want to scream.  But, the lists and scraps of paper of the names of people who were shot by the Gestapo made me want to run screaming out of this place.  There is a list of German “conquerors” who committed crimes – I wonder what they considered to be crimes given the real criminal acts they committed.  Handwritten pages are intermingled with typed pages – the ink was who knows what color when it came out of their pens – it has faded to purple and deep red.  The color, I think, but do not say, is that of blood.

Poor Ella – she is able to read and understand what she is reading.  “Near the stream of Bystrich the Jewish cemetery which is called the camp of death lies.  It is 400 meters long and 150 meters wide which makes 6 hectares.”  Ella looks up and wonders if that stream is the River Bystrich which runs near her home – of course it is, but I only say “perhaps” – she knew the answer to the question when she asked it.  I wonder to myself, if knowing what happened there will make it difficult for her to walk down by the river without thinking of what happened.

Another page is entitled – “What the Fascists did to Cover- up the Traces of their Crimes.”  Among the rest, it says “Fuchs Solomon Feilovich survived and during the war he was among 105 exiles who were made to burn the corpses of those killed both in Lviv and Stanislawaw…They also made some of them dig out the corpses and to take off gold things like rings, teeth and so on…When they had done the job in Lviv those 105 prisoners were sent to Stanislawaw to the Jewish cemetery  in 1944 and began to dig out and burn the bodies of those killed…They burned the corpses like that in special spots in the cemetery – they put several layers of wood then a layer of corpses 3 meters high then poured gasoline on them and burned them from January 5 until March 25, 1944 Germans burned more than 10,000 people (bodies)…Then they washed the remnants in the water to find gold things and then they dug pits and put the remnants in them…Then they smoothed the ground and planted grass over it.”

This and many other pages were part of the interrogation of witnesses by Soviet soldiers. Gersh Aronovich Karpen born in 1886 was one of the witnesses and Ella reads some of what was written about the ghetto “In Oct 1941 the Nazis set up a ghetto in which he stayed until March 1943 when the ghetto was liquidated…In August 1941 they killed 8,000 people in 1 day in the Jewish cemetery.  From that day on Gestapo and the police conducted such actions, shooting several thousand people a day.”  He names the Germans in charge of these actions: “Shed, who got an award from Hitler for shooting people himself; Krieger who was the head of the Gestapo in Stanislawaw – he also shot people; Brand was under him; Streger; Grimm who was Streger’s assistant and who said that a Jew is not a human being.  Karpen was a baker by profession and he had to bake bread for those who were in the ghetto and once the police came to him and put him in the water near the baking house and beat him up.  Then he was taken to a house where there were 500 people who were waiting to be shot but he managed to escape.  In the territory of the ghetto there was an orphanage where there were 300 children and in March, 1943 Nazis came and put the children into sacks and threw the children out of the windows into trucks and drove them to the river and drowned them there – throwing them into the water.”  The witness said that “The Nazis killed more than 100,000 people in Stanislawow. “ He said that “one man had thrown acid in a policeman’s face and the next day they killed 6,000 people in retaliation…  Karpen was saved by a man who was driving corpses out of the ghetto in a cart and put Karpen among the corpses.”

Ella had not read many of the histories or books about what happened here.  Reading and translating what she just had must have been shocking for her.  Ella continued to peruse the flimsy sheets of paper.  She found accounts of 1941, detailing the killing of 2500 Jews in Nadvirne region. The archivist told us that in her research she wrote about the region and what happened here during the Shoah but at least temporarily she is unable to publish her work until an encyclopedia of the holocaust of the former Soviet Republics is published.  I don’t quite understand – Ella speculated that perhaps these articles are part of the encyclopedia – however, the archivist has given them to me electronically, to read.  I will need Ella to provide the translations. I am relying on Ella for so much.  I just hope this dependence isn’t too burdensome for her.  As well as she and I know each other from decades of correspondence, it is difficult to read her – the cues and clues we pick up about another person through physical, aural and visual interactions with that person has been lacking in our relationship.  I am sure that our future correspondence and conversations will be easier now that we can hear each other’s voices and see in our minds how the other person would be reacting to what we are saying or doing.

Ella found a typed list of the names of the people killed – on the list is noted who is a Jew, who is Ukrainian, who is a Pole.  Pages and pages of typed, single spaced.  Based on the ink color, perhaps some of the sheets were carbon copies. Other books have quickly scribbled handwritten lists, others are handwritten lists carefully and clearly written.  The beauty of the script belies what information is conveyed.  Name after name after name – a never-ending list of horror and sorrow.

We left the archive shortly after – we had been there for 8 hours with only a half hour break for a lunch of buckwheat with some sauce on it and cabbage salad.  We spent 11 hours totally in the archive and could have spent 1100 hours and still barely touched the bulk of what must be there.

Ella prepared vereniki from a frozen package for dinner – we can get them as potato stuffed pierogi in the states.  She said it is an all day task to prepare them from scratch, but that she does it for Christmas every year – it is a traditional food eaten then.  After dinner, we walked into town to meet Myroslav and his parents for coffee and dessert.  Ella, Ira (Myroslav’s mom) and I drank a fragrant tea,  Myroslav had coffee and Misha and Sasha beer.  We had strudel, cheese cake, ice cream and berries with cream.  The ice cream was amazing!  Come to think of it, so was the strudel.  Ella and I had eaten strudel at Pizza Plus one night and it was nowhere nearly as good.  This was perfect.

Myroslav told me about his new laptop computer and we spoke of the research Ella and I were doing, and of what I needed Myroslav to do in Zhytomyr.  Ultimately the photos and translations Myroslav will do at the cemetery there will be contributed to JewishGen databases.  Ella told Misha of what we had been doing and reading, and she began to

Street music in I-F

Street music in I-F

cry.  Misha told her a story of relatives of his whose last name was Kik, who helped hide Jews during the war.   We slowly walked through the series of squares that hold restaurants downtown on our way home, stopping briefly to listen to a string group playing delightfully in the square.

Sigh.  What a day, what experiences.