Saturday, June 18, 2011

Poland -- the Chassidic Route: Baligrod

My car is parked at the entrance to the cemetery, pointing back toward the village. It was a bit tricky turning around. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The  village of Baligrod, about 20 km south of Lesko, is another stop on the Chassidic Route itinerary sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ).

Jews lived here from the early 17th century and for much of the period between the 18th century and World War II they made up a majority of the residents. The synagogue and other buildings were destroyed in WWII.

The Jewish cemetery survives on a hill overlooking the town — a lovely spot with a beautiful view -- and the narrow, bumpy dirt road is clearly marked by signposts from the village. I drove up (as I didn't know how far it would be) but it would make more sense to park below and walk.

Photo: Ruth Ellen Gruber

There are supposed to be about 200 stones here;  the oldest legible date from  1718 and 1732. The Nazis used hundreds of gravestones  to pave the market square -- they are believed still to be there, covered by asphalt.

The cemetery was restored in 2008, and the stones are in good condition — and there is even an incongruous red trash can for visitors to deposite rubbish (it was filled with  used plastic water bottles) –  but when I visited the grass and weeds were chest-high , in sore need of cutting. The grass totally obscured some of the stones -- I tried to see as many as I could, but I know I didn't see them all.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Still, I found many beautifully carved stones, with a variety of candlestick shapes on women's stones, ranging from crude but delicate incised images to more elaborate styles, some featuring candlesticks flanked by birds. See more candlesticks stones at my site.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Someone had clearly visited a short while before I did, though, as there were narrow paths tromped through the grass, and someone had piled stones and pebbles on many of the gravestones.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

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