On the way to Kovel last night, I got a text message from Phyllis Grossman. Phyllis was one of my co-chairs for the IAJGS 2016 conference in Seattle and we became good friends while working on the conference. She attended this year’s conference in Warsaw, and was one of the Ukraine SIG luncheon speakers. After the conference she was going to spend some time in her ancestral towns, and she was staying in Lutsk until 20 Aug! When she first texted, I had no idea if we would have time to see her in Lutsk. As it turned out, as exhausted as we all were from our travels yesterday, we woke up pretty early, packed the van and were ready to go. I texted Phyllis to see if we could meet for lunch in Lutsk. It was Sunday, so we expected to see church goers, but were confused by all the people who were very dressed up and carried baskets of fruits. It turned out that we were in the middle (or maybe the end) of the apple harvest and this was a day that the harvest was blessed.
Lunch was to be at a 14th century castle! On the way, we passed a sign pointing to where the 17th century synagogue (now a gym) stands.
If we had more time we would have gone inside the castle, but we knew that we still had a very long drive to get to Kiev after lunch.
There are houses still standing which were occupied by the Jewish residents of the once thriving Jewish community.
It is always wonderful to meet up with old friends especially in unexpected places!
We headed off to Kiev where we were to meet up with two Ukrainian researchers – Anna and Ella. Full disclosure – Ella is also my cousin. Ella’s grandfather and my grandmother were siblings, and many years after the Holocaust, Ella and I found each other. Since then (1985) we are in constant touch, now primarily via email.
Although in Vilnius, the kosher restaurant was closed, to my delight, Mendi’s the kosher restaurant in Kiev was open, and we all enjoyed a wonderful dinner there.
Our walk around Kiev took us past the Sholom Aleichem Museum. In Ukraine, he is a folk hero and everyone learns about him and his stories from a young age. Last time I was in Ukraine, Ella and I saw a showing of Fiddler on the Roof in Ivano-Frankivsk. Seeing it acted out in Ukrainian, in Ukraine was very insightful – especially when I found out afterwards from conversations with the director and producer, that it was considerd to be a universal story and that the pogroms were thought to just be allegorical since “everyone” knows there were no pogroms before WWII.