August 3, 2009

We arrived back in Phoenix last night.  It is just 3 weeks since I returned to the US from Ukraine.  Six weeks have passed since I left New York for Ukraine.  I feel like the trip was a lifetime ago.  Today I bought a quart of whole milk, poured it into a mason jar that is slightly larger than a quart.  The milk is sitting on my counter, ripening, waiting to sour.  Last night I began a project that should have been done years ago.  My dad began it and handed the material to me and it has been sitting in the back of shelves, in drawers and traveling with me, carefully protected wherever I have moved.  The material of which I speak now, are the original letters from Samuel and the enveloped which once held the correspondence from Grandma Blima and Grandpa Harry to Samuel, stamped “return to sender”.  Also there are letters from Diana’s brother Isaac, his wife Bluma, their friend, all pleading with my grandparents to answer Samuel.  These letters are in Polish and date from immediately after the war.  In Yiddish there are letters from the 1920’s from Blima’s mother, Chana.  There are letters in German from Norbert, Grandpa Harry’s brother, dating from the late 1930’s until 1941.  He was killed in Matthausen in 1942.  There are letters from Norbert’s daughter Erika, from after the war.  My grandmother’s naturalization papers and a copy of her school book from when she was learning English in New York, are also there.  Selig Grass’ death certificate and Moses Silberman’s death certificate are also there – those are the two latest death certificates from Europe (until Samuel and Diana’s) – the last of the family to have died natural deaths.  There are many other papers – the ship manifest showing the immigration of my great-grandmother Shaina Mintza Farber Moldavsky with her children in 1910, a census record of Grandpa Harry’s parents and siblings from Europe and more.  The project is to place the fragile sheets of paper in archival safe sheet protectors and to do the same with the Xeroxed copies and translations.  Perhaps at some point a more exact translation will be made of the letters.  Putting them in sheet protectors and then in binders will let us read or scan the letters without taking them out and handling them.  I needed longer/larger sheet protectors and a different size binder – some of the letters are on ledger or legal size pages as are some of the forms.  Much if not all of my early correspondence with Ella is also there.  Reading the letters from Samuel, Norbert and Erika made my brain hurt with the knowledge of their fate.    It’s sixty-eight years since many of these people died.  I didn’t know them.  There aren’t even any stories about them any more.  How can people be wiped out so totally, so completely erased.  A few days after the World Trade Center in New York was attacked, in 2001, I was at my parents’ house and I looked over Jamaica Bay at where I used to see the Trade Center.  There was a weird sort of gray mark from the ground up to the sky that reminded me of the erasure mark of a pencil.  All that was left of those huge strong buildings was this erased sort of haze.

I realized I hadn’t told my dad what Ella said about Oskar – a brother of Samuel’s and Blima’s.  Ella said that she had been told by Samuel that when he returned to Stanislawow after the war and found out the fate of his mother and all his relatives, a neighbor told him that Oskar had run away and come to a neighbor’s house for shelter.  The neighbor took him in for a short time and then the police came looking for him.  The neighbor didn’t know if Oskar was caught or not.  Samuel never heard from his brother again.  My dad did a quick search through some databases and found an Oskar Grass with a birth year close to our Oskar’s listed in the Yad Vashem database as a survivor.  It isn’t our Oskar.  But what if….imagine a life well-lived  instead of the almost certain fate that was his.  We will keep looking, trying to recreate something of the lives of Oskar and the rest of the family.  We know their names.  We want to know more.

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Yesterday, Robert and I spent over 2 hours looking at my photos.  As the pictures of the matzevot passed across the screen, I tried to sound out the names (Yiddish, Hebrew, Ukrainian, Russian or Polish), sometimes needing two languages in order to make sense of them.  There were so many I captured, but so many more I didn’t.  I know in a few months, that Myroslav will be able to photograph all the stones in two cemeteries, but that leaves so many more as yet uncaptured in a photographic record, and still many millions more that have been destroyed – as effectively wiped out as if they, or worse still, the person, never was.  I don’t mean only those murdered during the Shoah who didn’t even get a marker, I mean the millions who went before them, the remnants of whose very existence was also destroyed – records, homes, matzevot.  I am not unrealistic to suppose that a person’s grave or home will remain eternally “there” but generally, gravestones disintegrate through time – the damage only what the elements do to the stone.  These were deliberately destroyed.  What happened to the caskets – the concrete and stone vaults in which the dead were placed?  Their stone markers were turned into streets, bridges, fences and buildings.  I have seen ancient stone markers in Egypt destroyed by time and vandals, in the U.S. there are plenty of readable gravestones that still stand from the 17th and 18th centuries, from the European dead.  Many of the Native Americans traditionally did not put markers such as the ones we are used to seeing.

Since I got back home, I’ve been sleeping much better than I was in Ukraine, until last night.  The images really haunt me – they are just behind my eyes, the colors, the shapes, the sounds.  I didn’t realize that it would be so difficult to shake loose from them – after all, I was just a by-stander, a witness of what is left.  Perhaps that is the best any of us can be now – a witness to the remnants.  I asked whether Native Americans know their history and the history post-conquest of the destruction of their traditional lands, and was told that for the most part they do not.

Today I heard from Ella (I am really happy that she and I exchange emails almost daily, and I often also hear from Julia) with the name of the Polish book and author that Rabbi Kalesnik showed to us – she included the publisher’s name, from Krakow.  I am hoping I can locate and purchase the book.  There are photographs in it of Stanislawow from a by-gone age.  Ella also found Diana’s birth certificate and I hope she can get it scanned and emailed to me.  I think we already have all the information in it, but more information and original documents is always good.

Last night, well actually all day yesterday, the news was full of the “birthers” – those people who claim that President Obama really wasn’t born in Hawaii (which by the time of his birth was a US state).  If he isn’t a US citizen, he would be ineligible to hold the office of President, and of course their claims are idiotic.  It made me think of those born in Europe, like my dad’s parents, in one country, which by the time they were 20 had been under the political auspices of at least one other country, and perhaps as many as 2 or 3 other countries!  In the US, we don’t generally lose territory, and our borders are pretty stable, with the exception of the change in the US border when states like Alaska and Hawaii joined the US within the last 50 or so years.  When I was in school, I found European and African geography difficult to grasp – the shapes of the continents remained the same, but the names and borders of the countries kept changing and I just didn’t understand that sort of reality.  Of course there was the attempted secession of the southern states during the Civil War era, and Key West, the Conch Republic, seceding from Florida in 1982, and some other regions talking about seceding from the state with which they are affiliated and forming another, but I don’t think that has actually ever happened most people consider these “political movements” to only be tongue-in-cheek.  Oh, what was the point?  Only that in spite of our loud out-spoken political arguments and some ridiculous policies set in recent years by the White House, as a political entity, the US is pretty stable, and Europe traditionally has not been.

Ukraine cannot be defined as killing fields, cemeteries, marked & unmarked graves, pogroms.  It is a place of many contrasts.  There are wonderful, kind and caring people there who live (as they always have done) among the anti-Semitism (which cannot be laid at the feet of the ignorant – there are plenty of educated people who are involved in the present as they were in the past), the beauty of the countryside can be breathtaking at times and most of the time appears to be peaceful and pastoral.

Typical street in Lviv

Typical street in Lviv

The colors of the churches with their blue, silver and gold as they shine against the blue of the sky dotted with white clouds, the musicians, the contrasts of modern with ancient in the architecture of the buildings as well as in lifestyles in the city and country – all these add to the inconsistencies.  Just to make sure that there is a cold dash of reality against the backdrop of the beauty, there is always a soviet era style building or two – so out of place – or the contrast of modern advertisements!

It’s my first Sunday back in Santa Fe from Ukraine, and after a restful Friday evening and lazy Saturday, I woke up on Sunday raring to do our Sunday “thing” – walk down to the Plaza, stop and have brunch at Domenic’s Café near Sanbucca and spend a leisurely few hours, just walking, listening to music and chatting.  We debated, given the weather forecast whether we would hit rain, and my response was that neither of us was sweet enough to melt if we did.  Of course, if it rained, our walk would be considerably different than what we had planned, since part of it takes us through the arroyo, which in a storm can turn into a raging river.

The hiking trail certainly makes a huge difference in how we get around in Santa Fe.  When we first got the condo (is it only 3 years?) and I was adventurous enough to want to walk downtown, the walk felt endless.  That was probably because it took almost 2 ½ hours to get there.  We walked up a huge hill, which led to a barely paved path, crossed one of the busiest streets (St. Michael’s) and then once past the hospital, zig-zagged through the streets until we got downtown.  The walk though, was beautiful.  Lots of old streets, old adobe houses, gorgeous gardens.  Now the walk is slightly less scenic, much less physically taxing (no huge hill) and is all either trail or paved sidewalks.  It is considerably less dangerous than the old walk.

The trail has undergone at least two renovations since we got here, both due to things having to do with the railroad.  There is now a commuter rail system that goes to Albuquerque – three cars, very cute, as well as the larger train.  The trail goes along the train tracks.  Of course, my recent trip is never far from my mind, and as we walked along the tracks, my thoughts took a giant leap – thousands of miles and sixty years – and I blurted out “I guess sometimes a train track and  railroad cars are just a train track and railroad cars.”

Railroad tracks in Santa Fe

Railroad tracks in Santa Fe

Julia had commented either on the video or when she and I were talking, about the tracks leading up to the Camps in Poland.  Until I was there, I don’t think I really understood what a wide-spread rail system there actually is – the trains must connect every little village and hamlet in Europe, and provide major transportation hubs in all the big cities.  The train station in Lvov was beautiful outside – I opted not to go in it.  It reminded me of Grand Central Station, but I suppose that is only because of the color of the stone and that I was looking for something familiar in the beautiful structure.

The dust of the high desert is so different from the green of Ukraine.  It’s very beautiful here, but it takes getting used to in order to see past the starkness of the dusty trails.  The flowers are exceptional and in contrast to the lushness of Ukraine or even NY, they stand in stark relief again the beige of the sand.  We arrived at Domenic’s without hitting any rain, but the summer temperatures were starting to climb and we were both very hot and sweaty and ready to sit down for a cold iced tea.  After we ate, we walked around, stopping briefly at a shop that has beautifully colored skirts and tops hanging outside on sale racks.  We stop there every week, and I always take time to sort through the light summer-y fabrics and the bright colors, but not unexpectedly, don’t buy anything.  Robert always teases me about that, but there are so many choices, that, rather than having to select something (each item is $20 on these racks) I prefer to pass them all up!  Go figure.  I think, though, after the trip, it is easier to distinguish between want and need.  Right now, I neither want nor need anything – I just like to look.  Oh, let me amend that – when we passed the Hagen-Dasz place, I wanted and needed that dark chocolate peanut butter cone.  Really, I did.

Doing what we always do, we walked past the Native American vendors selling jewelry and pottery under the portico, and past the woman selling the freshly roasted pinon nuts.  There is a world of difference between those you buy in the stores and these, but today we didn’t buy any.  In Kiev, there is a street that Myroslav and I walked down (actually it was probably up) – it was a twisty, winding street, very narrow, and had lots of vendors there – at the time, I couldn’t distinguish between what was worth buying and what was just junk.  I never got back there for a second look.  It was an incredibly picturesque street and although I didn’t comment on it at the time, it reminded me of when I was very young and my dad worked in lower Manhattan.  Occasionally we would all go into his office on the weekend and I would fool with a switchboard (told you I was very young then) while he took care of some work.  Then we would walk around the vendors selling things from pushcarts, and over to Canal Street.  I remember when the small old buildings in the area were beginning to give way to the monsters of today – it was so exciting watching “sky-scrapers” being built.  Now, I am grateful that in spite of the grace of many of the newer buildings, that so many of the beautiful old structures remain.

Last Friday at this time I was sitting in the Kiev airport.  Today I’m sitting in the Chicago Midway airport.  Maybe it’s a Friday sort of thing.  The good thing about being in this airport is that I can understand (almost) all the announcements and conversations going on around me.  There is probably quite a bit to be said for being clueless about the activity all around you.

A lot went on this past week, and the best I could do was to jot down occasional notes.  In many ways that don’t make a lot of sense, I was certainly not getting much sleep while I was in Ukraine (perhaps 5 hours on a good night) and we were walking miles every day.  Most of this week, I slept at least as much (or little, depending on your perspective) and was busy with family and at a workshop all week, but still I didn’t find the time (or maybe the impulse) to be writing in my blog, although I was certainly thinking about a lot of things.  Maybe I was just processing.  Perhaps this is the way I worked though (or began the process) since I didn’t feel either jet-lagged or disoriented at all.

Last Saturday, after an intense day looking at photos, watching and talking about the video and what Asya, Ella and Julia were saying, and doing a brief review of some of the material I had collected, my parents and I went out to a late dinner (given my travel the day before and my inability to grasp what the time zones were doing that whole day, I am sure that the time of dinner that night was almost meaningless – it must have been meal time somewhere I had been).  We went to their favorite diner in Rockville Center, and my parents joked when I chose fish (snapper) for dinner – much the same way they did when I fixed a tuna sandwich for lunch.  The funnier thing was that on Sunday, when Susie and Emily came to visit, my mom fixed a delicious and very crusty tuna casserole. It’s been so long since she made it, though she had to ask me for advice on quantities and ingredients!

Sunday brought a second de-briefing with Susie while Emily went to work on her newly repaired computer.  The repair was a collaborative effort between Robert and my dad and resulted in a linux install.  Emily seemed really happy to be reunited with her email and Facebook friends.  I was glad because I think she would have been bored with some of the kitchen-based conversations about the trip.  We went through about ¾ of the photos, Asya’s video and some of the paperwork I brought home.  The tragedies of the past are re-lived daily now with input from different people lending insight into some different perspectives about the family, frustrations about the world that was so brutally destroyed and all the people completely lost to us with the destruction not only of their lives, but of the personal things generally remaining after people die.  I remembered Arielle visiting Mary’s mother or maybe grandmother for a holiday weekend while she was in college – there were diaries in the attic preserving several centuries of records of farming and family details.  What a contrast.

For 4 days this week, every day I walked from E 55 St to the west side, through Central Park.  On my first walk, on my way to meet Lee for dinner and see her fabulous new apt (it’s really gorgeous and in a perfect location) I glanced over at the water in the south end of the Park and was really surprised to suddenly feel as if I was walking through the park in Ivano-Frankivsk with Sasha and Ella, stopping by the lake, taking photos.  What a world of contrasts.  Yet, as Ella and I kept saying, the similarities were much more extensive than the differences.

The week in New York was filled with beautiful and startling things, as well as plenty of time to interact with colleagues at the workshop at JTS and review and learn as we prepare to implement a new curriculum.  I was particularly taken by the green beauty of New York – the many trees, flowers, beautiful old buildings, church spires, colors in shop windows, incredible fragrances wafting out of restaurants and bakeries.  The grocery stores on almost every corner with the brilliantly colorful displays of fruits, vegetable and flowers were particularly eye-catching, and the bagel, donut &

Central Park

Central Park

coffee  stands on the streets in the mornings giving way to hot dogs, knishes, pretzels, falafel, shwarma and other goodies by noon.  It seems that there are unlimited versions of ice cream, gelato, ices and frozen yogurt shops that have sprung up – I wish I was staying long enough to sample each one – there are so many varieties I don’t know how anyone makes any choices!

In 1966, I took my first plane flight – I went to Israel and France that summer.  When I returned home, I was very impatient with the contrasts that I understood between life in the US and Israel.  I didn’t grow up in an over-privileged environment, but also didn’t lack anything I needed.  The financing for the trip was a struggle for my parents and grandparents, but they felt it was an important trip – I was the first in the family to go to Israel.  What I became most conscious of though, was the differences in lifestyle.  I didn’t think that what I saw in Israel was due to poverty any more than what I thought I was seeing in the US was wealth.  Rather, I understood that in the US we had lives that were filled with luxuries and comforts which at the time were almost unknown in Israel and that our lives in contrast to theirs were easy.  I know that I had very little understanding as a teen of why those difference existed and I was intolerant when I returned home, of those contrasts.  This time, the contrasts again were striking but they were disturbing in many ways that are so unlike the earlier trip.

An odd thing, well really, 3 odd things happened, on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday morning, as I approached the

NYC

NYC

corner where the big FAO Schwartz and the Apple store are, on Central Park South, across from the Plaza, I noticed an awful lot of police cars parked everywhere. There were cops in the cars (two per car) and they were just parked.  It was a few minutes before 7 AM.  At exactly 7 AM, all of their lights were turned on, and about 3 minutes later, they started to pull away in an orderly fashion, from the curb, and to drive west.  49 police cars with flashing red, blue and white lights.  I counted them as they drove by.  Later that day, as I walked back to the east side, probably on 56th or 57th street, while I headed east from 5th avenue, 14 police cars passed me, in a line, sirens blaring, lights flashing.  This was around 9:45 PM.  The next morning, I saw a sight similar to what I had seen Tuesday at around 7 AM – this time, by Lincoln Center.  The first time I saw this line of police cars with sirens and lights was about two or three years ago – I was in the city for a week in the summer at a workshop and was walking with another woman when all of a sudden a line of cars with sirens and lights terrified us.  We stood still unsure of whether to run and where, and noticed that no one else was paying any attention.  There was a cop nearby and we asked him what it was all about – he said ever that since 9/11 there were randomly scheduled shows of force all over the city.  I guess people can get used to anything.

It’s hard to believe all that has happened in the last five weeks, since I left Santa Fe has transpired.  A week in NY, 3

Flowers in NY

Flowers in NY

weeks in Ukraine and a final week in NY –  I feel as if I have been gone for 5 months, not 5 weeks.

I am sitting in the airport in Kiev.  It’s so smoky here – there is almost no place where I can get away from the smoke.  There are few electrical outlets in the entire airport – I think I found the only accessible one!  Gate check in is two hours before the flight and I have been here for 3 hours already – another 3 before I can go up to the gates and perhaps find a duty free shop of some sort.  We woke up this morning at 3:30 (bless you Ella and Sasha for putting up with the

Sasha, Janette, Ella

Sasha, Janette, Ella

early hour so cheerfully, preparing coffee and getting me to the airport). Sergey met us, as planned, at the airport for a final farewell.  We did get some terrific last photos.   The ever thoughtful Ella made sure I had food with me – delicious fruit, honey cake, cookies.  She even made sure I had some local currency with me.  Sasha, was, as always, concerned and last night checked the water supply to make sure I had sufficient water to take with me.  I cannot possibly say how wonderful spending all this time with Ella and Julia was.  It was better than anything my imagination could have invented.

The airport in I-F is so much like the Bucharest airport!  It’s one huge room, with Door 1 and Door 2.  Everyone lined up with bags by Door 1.  Each person was called individually to enter the door.  Spooky.  Once in the door, officials asked for my passport, which they checked against the manifest and gave me a boarding pass.  In spite of the gifts of vodka, pepper vodka, herbal liqueur and cognac, all local, my bags still weighed about 3 kg less than when I left NY!  I had the chocolate gifts, teas, and books in my carry-on.  All the bags went through x-ray including my bottle of water, but they only questioned what was in the tins in my carry-on and asked ME to open the bag and take out the offending articles and show them to the officials.  I walked through with my water intact – in the US I wouldn’t even be allowed to bring a container of yogurt through security (ask me how I know that).  Then I went into another room where people were sitting on chairs waiting for the flight.  We left our bags lined up by the door and men in military uniforms carried them to the baggage cart to be loaded onto the plane.  There are a maximum of 3 flights a day leaving this airport.  Ella said that in Soviet times there were lots of flights every day.

There were about 40 of us waiting for a plane that I think holds 54 people.  The flight to Kiev was smooth, with coffee and small candies served by the male flight attendant.  There was plenty of legroom and also overhead storage.

I did find out why the train takes 12 hours to travel less than 300 miles from I-F to Kiev.  First, it goes further west for 2 hours to Lviv, then stops for 2 hours in Lviv before heading east to Kiev.

Announcements on the plane were in English and (I think) Ukrainian.  The ground below us was covered in patches by a wispy fog.  Green farms were a patchwork below, reminding me of the farms in PA.  The difference is that here they are soaked in fairly recent blood that everyone ignores.  They don’t ignore that the Shoah happened, but they seem to

From the air

From the air

think it happened somewhere else, even though the memorials all over should attest to a different reality.  I tried all during this trip to dispel these images but could not.  They haunted me wherever I went, and I felt the stains beneath my feet constantly, even when reason said that in a specific place there had been no violent murder.  It felt it all over and all around all the time.  I looked at the tax building and saw where the houses we once occupied on Sapezhinska Street stood and wondered why other buildings from that time were standing all over town and why those had been taken down.  I’ve asked Ella to see if our favorite archivist can find the history of those buildings, occupants, ownership, through time from when they were first constructed through their demolition.

We, Ella and I, found so much not only in the archives, but in the connection between us.  That connection I’m sure will grow stronger through time, now that we have met.  I hope the further results from the archives will reveal the answers to more secrets that have been concealed for so long.

I re-read what I have written over the last few weeks and I see the melodrama of my words, the constant reflection on the Shoah.  I tried to keep my tone even and to avoid unduly focusing on the horrors perpetuated here, but I was always conscious of what had happened, as if it was a cloud over my head, or perched on my shoulder.  I was only amazed at the laughter, the life, the colors, the apparent naiveté or maybe blindness in which people here live.  My apologies to Sasha, Sergey and Myroslav, the three non-Jews with whom I spent so much time, for the harshness of my words and my discomfort.  They tried so hard to make me feel welcome.  I tried not to let these feelings create more barriers between us than the linguistic difficulties presented, but I fear I may have failed in that.  They are certainly not to blame for what was done here.  I know Ella and Julia were conscious of how I was feeling, and they were incredibly great about answering questions and talking of really tough topics.

Ella and Sasha are off for a short vacation trip of their own – next week they go to Hungary.  While they are gone, on the 15th, it will be Sergey’s birthday.  We all laughed that his mother-in-law is leaving on his birthday.  Ella is a wonderful, mom, granny and mother-in-law.  It is beautiful to see how the whole small family interacts and cooperates.  Thank you for welcoming me in to that and making me feel as if we had always been together.  I hope that my trip and my thoughts about it will open doors for other family members to be in touch with Ella and Julia (I have their email addresses and would love to share!)  I’ll be in NY soon, but over the next week, I’ll be adding photos to the blog and be checking some cyber-ways to put all my photos from this trip in a place where everyone can access them.  Yes, Robert, I did say that.  I guess they may soon appear on Flickr unless you direct me to another site to which I can upload them.

Rainbow over I-F

Rainbow over I-F

Sasha, thank you for the rainbow on my last day in your home – what a perfect way to end a delightful visit.

Other side of the rainbow

Other side of the rainbow

It’s my last day in I-F.  We have an awful lot to do before the day is over, even though it seemed as though this would just be a lazy day.  I did sleep a little later – I go to sleep so late, that waking up before 7 is really difficult.  Ella made that wonderful cheese toast again for breakfast.  Sasha went to get the car so we could go to the huge marketplace and then the archives.  The market is a wonder.  There is the widest variety of food displays – fruits, vegetables, grains,

Marketplace

Marketplace

breads, meats, fish, pastries, cheeses, eggs, milk.  The market is so crowded with people it seems as if the world is shopping.  The aisles are endless.  We keep turning corners – Sasha I think is impatient with me because I am walking so slowly and taking photos of everything – the colors and crowds are wonderful.  Among other things, Ella bought eggs that she put in a small plastic bag.  I just know if I were the one carrying them, they wouldn’t survive the shopping trip!

We stopped by the archives after the market and Sasha was very good about sitting in the car just listening to the radio while Ella and I went inside.  Instead of the 45 promised records, we had 60! The records from the Archives I-F July 3 and beyond are incredible.  I can’t wait to wade into these. When we get to Julia’s later this afternoon, before our family farewell dinner for me, Ella will translate and I will type so I can send these to my dad to be put on the quickly growing spreadsheet.  I am sure that when we sort the data we will find some additional connections or at least lots of new questions.  I get the archivist’s email address so I can send her some resources on the history of Stanislawow and the Nazi murders there.  Apparently (if I understand correctly) she was originally hired to sort and manage the Jewish community’s records in the municipal archives and she became interested in the history of the Shoah while she was doing that.  She has been extremely helpful, and although I have compensated her, she really went beyond what I asked of her in many ways.  When we got into the car, I couldn’t resist glancing through the cards to see if there was anything that particularly struck me and immediately noticed records of family – this will corroborate information which until now has only been anecdotal.  We went home to put groceries away and then to Nathalie’s.  Nathalie had finished the catalog of the holdings in the archives and the first of the files from Rabbi Kolesnik.  We stayed and talked for awhile about her work scanning and transcribing records for Yad Vashem, her grandparents’ holocaust experience and what it was like for her at a Chabad school in Israel.

Ella and I quickly walked back to Julia’s – so conscious of how late it was getting and the work we needed to do so I could type up the information from the notecards, get my boarding passes for tomorrow’s flights, and still get to dinner at the restaurant on time.  Typing the information is never speedy.  We are constantly distracted and begin conversations about the small amount of facts on the cards, the relationships of the people, their names, where they lived, and our own stories.  In between I am trying to find time to i.m. with Robert, knowing that since I left NY,  finding time to talk with him has been really difficult and we haven’t had much time to chat on Skype or i.m. – partly because of internet access, partly because of activities that I am in the midst of doing and partly because of the large number of hours that separate us – when I am in Ukraine, there is a 9 hour difference with Santa Fe.  That means there is a very small window of time that we can be on line at the same time and I haven’t been able to be on a high speed connection with my own computer every day.

Dinner was charming at a lovely Japanese restaurant.  We all shared a sushi appetizer – Julia and I both had teriyaki veggies and green tea ice cream for dessert.  Julia said that Fiddler was packed and she and Babasya enjoyed the show.

View of I-F

View of I-F

While we wandered home in a light rain, we passed the theater in which it was playing and noticed that 3 additional performances had been added to the originally scheduled three.  We arrived home, only slightly damp, for a last chat, to pack, and Ella for almost the last time, to try to get me to eat something!

More scenes from I-F

More scenes from I-F

This morning, Ella was very creative at breakfast – she spends so much time thinking about what to prepare and working so hard early in the morning.  She cooked linguine and made what looked like nests and melted cheese on them – it was really delicious.  I shared the spaghetti frittata recipe I used to make when Arielle and Efrem were kids, with her – she said it sounded good and would be easy to try.

Our archivist is amazing.  When we stopped by to pick up the xeroxed copies, she told us that she had found an additional 45 records. We made arrangements to pick them up from her on Thursday morning.

Farmer on the road

Farmer on the road

Some of the things we see are so funny – a billboard advertising Avon (with Avon spelled out in English).  We are driving this morning to Kolomyya where we will meet Genya (Eugene) – a former student of Ella’s.  It truly does feel like the entire immediate world is a former student of hers!

The colors of the landscape here are fascinating – once we get out of town, the houses are mostly red brick and colorful

Kolomyya street

Kolomyya street

stucco.  There are lots of bright red roofs and some of the exteriors of the houses are not only brightly painted but also have decorative touches in etched metal, mirrors and tile.

Remember; “da” is Russian and “tak” is Ukrainian.  BUT if you use the wrong voice tone when saying “tak” meaning “yes” in Ukrainian, it means something entirely different in Russian.  We all know how tone deaf I am – wonder how many people I’ve insulted today! Everyone sounds like a clock: “tak, tak, tak”.

We met Genya and then took a brief walk to see the synagogue – it is part of Rabbi Kolesnik’s community.  The head of

In Kolomyya

In Kolomyya

the community was in the office working, and we looked around for a few minutes before he needed to leave for a meeting – he wasn’t expecting us, so it was nice that he was able to see us even for a few minutes.  There are  holes from where bricks were thrown in the outer window panes.  When asked, he said this is the first time in about 15 years that such desecration occurred.  When my mind links this to the poster in Lviv, I feel a physical pain, an urge to cry out for people to pay attention, to watch carefully.  Are people frightened?  Do they feel this, or is it only me, because I am not used to feeling this way, to being in such a place.  In the US we struggle with the reminders of what happened to slaves and to the Indians – perhaps it is easier for us to confront it in the US since so many of our ancestors weren’t even here when these tragedies and crimes were being perpetrated.  It is difficult in Ukraine for people to excuse themselves so easily – most people living in these cities, are descendants of people who have lived in these same places for centuries if not longer.

We walked around Kolomyya for a while.  There is an interesting museum of Easter eggs that we visited for a while.   Bumped into Genya’s mother while we were wandering around and he introduced us to her.  Of course, I couldn’t follow

Easter Egg Museum

Easter Egg Museum

any of the conversation.  Sometimes I think that is great – it leaves me alone with my own thoughts a lot.

We wandered around – a hot, dusty walk, to see the field where there was once a Jewish cemetery.  Just an empty grass covered field with a couple of very thin paths that people use to cross it.  Ella said there was a pock-marked wall where Nazis murdered Jews – the remnant of the murderous actions in Kolomyya.  Our search yielded nothing – there is a gas station in place of that reminder of what happened here.  Sasha said “kaput”.  Although he didn’t understand what I said, I replied anyway: “certainly – this community is kaput, why would anyone think twice about destroying the evidence of the destruction of its inhabitants.”

There is a memorial to the Chernobyl incident here.  Ella said that on April 26 when it happened everyone was told to just stay put and then further instructed (read commanded) to appear on May 1 for a demonstration of some sort.  Then it rained.  Not today, I mean right after Chernobyl.

We passed a small shop and stopped in for some tasteless ice cream cones – the advantage was that they were cold and we were hot, and the flavor was bland but just slightly sweet and I think revived us somewhat.  I know I’m not drinking enough water (not anything else either) and that is not helping the way I feel.  Physically, I’m fine.  I understand how people live here – it’s their lives, and the emotions I feel pounding me from all sides are because this is all new to me, it’s awful though.  I realize that I have been avoiding physical contact with everyone except the two babies – Ilya and Nathalie’s David, and even touching and holding them is very difficult.  I play with Ilya and make funny sounds for him because I know that in other places, I would do that with joy.  He is cute, fun to be around, and very charming.  My reaction isn’t to him and I know that so I try to behave the same way I would in other places.  Ella, Julia – I wish I was able to just forget about everything I’m feeling while I hold and play with Ilya.  He is very precious and I love being around him.

Genya said he didn’t know there had been Nazi murders of Jews in Kolomyya.  There is a monument just outside the city on the main road that is bullet marked.    Are these monuments such a common part of the landscape that no one

Holocaust Memorial - Kolomyya

Holocaust Memorial - Kolomyya

realizes why they were erected (or cares)?

We stopped at a roadside café and ate fresh fried fish and fried potatoes – the fish was delicious and the potatoes were better than Nathan’s or the Belgian Frites places.  We took advantage of passing the airport on our way home to stop and find out what we had to do for me to check in.  The answer was nothing – 72 hours before flight time, everyone with a ticket is officially registered.  Sounds kind of creepy but maybe I am just being unnecessarily paranoid.

We went home, tired from the excursion, but still awaiting us was taping Babasya’s reminiscences.  Julia, when she was a baby shortened Babushka Asya to Babasya and that is what everyone calls her now.  She fussed a bit over her appearance for her video debut and really surprised me by being eager to talk about her parents and her childhood experiences.  She had not done so before and it was extremely emotional.  Before we taped, she pulled out a photo album and began to identify the people in it.

Asya told us that Samuel, Diana and Eugene wanted to relocate to Poland but that she, Asya, did not – she felt loyal to

Ella and Asya

Ella and Asya

the Soviets for saving her.  Her story was very moving and we stopped taping a couple of times to permit her to regain her composure.  Julia was great about being put on the spot when I asked her to tell about her March of the Living experiences – she and I had already spoken about it previously.  I got about 50 minutes of tape – we watched it afterwards to make sure it was ok.  The sound, color and clarity are really wonderful.

Ella, Babasya and I left to return home and much to our surprise, the temperature had dropped by possibly as much as 20 degrees while we were inside.  As we shivered, Sergey passed us in the car – we waved him down to say hello and he decided to drive us all home.  He is really sweet and thoughtful.  When we got home, Ella tried to get me to eat but all I wanted was ice cream and cake.  I gobbled up the delicious ice cream, which Ella and I agreed was too sweet, but I had it on her honey cake, which is not overly sweet so the tastes balanced out nicely.  I must frustrate Sasha and Ella – they try so hard to make sure that the food they have available is pleasing to me, and I am so rarely hungry here.