We met our driver, Vasyl, and guide/translator, Svitlana, at the airport. We soon realized we were in good hands as we headed to Hatikvah Synagogue in the Podil district of the city to meet with Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, the Chief Rabbi of the Reform Movement in Kiev and Ukraine.
We visited Independence Square in Kiev this morning. It’s a broad plaza with many buildings built during the Stalin era in Ukraine. Most Americans are familiar with it as the site of the Euromaidan protests in November 2013 that started when Ukraine failed to join the European Union. It led to the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014, President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country in February and the occupation of Crimea by Russia.
First thing this morning we went down to the town center to shoot —it was the best. We wandered over to where there is a little farmer’s market of about six or eight tables set up along the roadway. Svitlana asked the lovely Ukrainian women who sell milk, produce and other items there if we could photograph them. A few were shy at first, but once they saw their friends beaming into my camera, most of them wanted to be in the frame.
We started again at the cemetery, flying the drone (Bruce hasn’t crashed it yet) and taking more photos. I walked down to the bottom of the hill and photographed the three large stones at the bottom – the graves are from the early 1950s. We could read two last names on the stone, Turner and Olshovskya (spelling?), which are written in Ukrainian.
Just some notes and photos today.1. Father Taras asked us yesterday if Jews in synagogues in America curse Tetiev during their services. Apparently, there’s the perception that American Jews blame the non-Jewish Ukrainians in Tetiev for what happened during the pogrom and still curse them for it. I told him I’d never heard of that — he said, “Thank God” — and was very relieved.
I said I would ask if any of the people on our Facebook page who attended Tetiever Shul every heard of such a thing. Please comment on the post if you have.
Quick update for today as we hit the road tomorrow morning for Lviv, which is in southwest Ukraine. Thanks to everyone here who helped make our journey productive and pleasant. Kudos to the mayor Руслан Майструк for his efforts to highlight the town’s Jewish history. And thanks to Oleksandr Oberemok for helping us make sure our historical facts are accurate. We’ll continue our conversations with both of them for some time to come.