Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ukraine -- More of On the Road

I wrote the other day about my visit to Bolekhiv and Stryj with Sergei Kravstov and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.

After leaving Bolekhiv, we stopped briefly at a couple of other places en route back to L'viv.

At the village of Dolina, we looked at the synagogue, which was transformed in the 1990s into a Baptist church. The red brick walls have been covered by a layer of grey stucco, and a little front extension with two pointed towers has been added.

(Dolina former synagogue. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber, 2008)

Behind the synagogue, on the steep slope above a little stream, is the site of the WW2 mass execution and mass grave of local Jews.

From Dolina, we bumped along the country roads to Galich (or Halych, as it is pronounced in Ukrainian, where we visited what looks like a "normal" Jewish cemetery (Hebrew epitaphs and similar decorative carving) but is actually the cemetery of the Karaite community. An ethnic Turkish people, Karaites follow a breakaway Jewish sect that originated in 8th century Iraq. They recognize the Torah and celebrate major Jewish holidays but have modified other Jewish traditions, reject the Talmud and rabbinical Judaism, and do not consider themselves to be Jewish.

Perched high above the Dniester River, Galich was the medieval capital of the province and kingdom of Galicia -- it's the town from which the region gets its name.

Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the historic sites in the town (though we did catch a glimpse of the castle, from the cemetery). We had to get back to L'viv for a meeting -- our driver, Sergei, absolutely flew back, speeding down the country roads in his Chevy (which lacked a back bumper). I'm glad I wasn't sitting in the front seat.

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