Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon

UKRAINE JOURNAL, SECTION 1

Dr. Ronald D. Doctor
rondoctor@earthlink.net
9 October 2002

Overview & Warsaw

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This Journal describes a visit that my brother Ken and I made to Ukraine in September 2002. I had several objectives in making this trip: First, to try to discover documents relating to our family history and to walk the ground where our ancestors lived; Second, to make contact with officials in Kremenets regarding documentation, restoration and maintenance of the Jewish Cemetery there; and Third, to try to gain some understanding of Jewish life in today’s Ukraine. Ken empathized with these objectives, and in addition, wanted to see some of the tourist sights in Ukraine and to gain some understanding of how Ukraine was making the transition to western values.  

I’ve written this in a “Journal” format to try to capture our sense of adventure and excitement as we travelled through Ukraine and met some remarkably helpful and friendly people.

We started our visit in Warsaw. Alex Dunai (our exceptionally capable and affable guide, translator, driver, bodyguard and, I hope, our friend) met us there after we had spent a few days in the city. We had opportunities to visit the reconstructed “old Warsaw”, and some Jewish sites. We met with Yale Reisner at the Jewish Historical Institute and I obtained some documents from him that I didn’t know existed … passports for 11 people who left Kremenets for Israel in the 1929 – 1939 period. At Yale’s suggestion, I visited the AGAD, Ancient Acts Archive of Poland, and obtained copies of portions of two 18th century Kahal documents for Kremenets. While I was doing this research at the Institute and AGAD, Ken went on a tour of Jewish Warsaw and Treblinka.

Yale Reisner and Ron Doctor

Alex drove us across the border into Ukraine. We spent a night in Lviv, and then drove on to Ternopil. We used Ternopil as a base for our visits to Kremenets and nearby ancestral villages. And, at the Archives in Ternopil, we obtained some unexpected census documents (Revizskaya Skazka) that push our family history back to the years before 1735. These documents added 5 generations to our Vurer family line, and 2 generations to the Doctor family line, besides adding several collateral lines. We visited Kremenets, met with Mayor Andriy Andriyovich Huslavskiy and Larisa Klyuch (Coordinator for the 20 person Jewish community of Kremenets) about the Jewish cemetery restoration project, and, we visited Novy Oleksinets and discovered several previously unknown (to us) tombstones from the Jewish cemetery. We shared a Rosh Hashonah dinner with the Jewish community of Ternopil, and met the leaders of the community.

From Ternopil, we drove to Kiev. Did some tourist stuff there, and met with Olga Muzychuk, Director of the Central State Archives of Kiev. Olga presented me with the results of some research that extends our Kazdoy line back another generation. While I recovered from a bout of TD, Ken and Alex spent a rainy day seeing some of the sights around Kiev.

Onward, from Kiev to Uman and Odessa. In Uman, we visited two of the cemeteries, one old, and the other new. The gatekeeper at the new cemetery allowed me to photograph the pages of their burial register. As far as I know, the Register has not been generally available. In Odessa, while Alex and I obtained records on my Kazdoy and Dubinski lines at the Archives (in the old Brodsky Synagogue), Ken walked around town.

Ken returned to the US from Odessa, and Alex and I drove back to Ternopil where we met again with the Mayor of Kremenets and with Larisa Klyuch (Coordinator for the 20 person Jewish community of Kremenets) to followup on our previous discussions. The meetings were promising, but the cemetery restoration project will require time, patience, and some considerable money.

We also visited Yampol, another ancestral town, and discovered a new building erected over the gravesites of two Rabbis. A man named “Moishe” from New York paid for the construction. Construction was completed just one week before we visited. Three weeks before our visit, the workmen, on their own initiative, retrieved 25 matzevot that had been thrown into the river by the Soviets during communist rule. I got close up photos of each. And, we visited Vishnevits, where I photographed about 65 matzevot in the old Jewish cemetery.

I spent a little less than 3 weeks on this trip. Between us, Ken and I took more than 1400 photos with our digital cameras. We have a heavy editing job ahead of us. I have included selected photos in this Journal. The Journal comprises five sections. The first four correspond to major segments of our travels. The last offers some observations about travelling in Ukraine.

 

We begin with Warsaw ---->