This is the report of 2018 Schleppers club trip to Ukraine. It is a part of 1 month Eastern European trip. Other countries we visited this summer are Poland and Romania. Some of the group members had traveled with me previously and enjoyed our intimate, like-minded group and in-depth experience-focused travel. They encouraged me to form a kind of “Facebook-based travel club,” so they could easily find out about future trips and share their experiences together online. So Schleppers Club was born. Today we have over 100+ members online. For anyone interested, here is Schleppers Club where request can be sent to join. This was the 3rd official Schleppers Club trip. Previous trips were to Baltics and Georgia/Armenia.

June 5 we arrived Lviv, Ukraine from Warsaw.

Lviv (was also called Lvov, Lemberg), founded in the 13th century, traces of its Polish and Austro-Hungarian heritage are evident in its architecture, which blends Central and Eastern European styles with those of Italy and Germany. Its ornate buildings and bustling street cafes are reminiscent of Vienna or Prague. Hotel Astoria 4* is in the center of Lviv near Opera theater, a beautiful building circa 1900 built by Polish architect Zigmunt Gorgolewski.

Jewish history of Lviv dates to 13c, Jews settled from the beginning, arriving from Turkey and Byzantium. As usual, Jews were traders, money landers and merchants. In 13c century it was Galicia and the name of the city was Lev after the name of founder’s of the city, Prince Danilo of Galicia’s son Lev. In 14c the city was taken over by Polish King Cazimir.That time was good for Jewish community and under Casimir rules were given equal rights. In 1772 Galicia became a part of Austro-Hungarian empire and Lvov changed the name to Lemberg. The Jews despite some worsening of trade condition and burdened with various taxes, nevertheless did well. They were educated in university, owned most of the city stores. Most of the population were Hassidic, but educated Jews started the Jewish enlightenment movement called Haskalah.

Until the early 20th century, a variety of ethnic groups including Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, and Germans lived side-by-side with relative ease. Jewish life flourished alongside Ukrainian culture and literature.

In 1914, Russians took over the city, and that’s when many Jews fled fearing Cossacks pogroms. In 1915, Russians left and Lvov became again part of Hapsburg empire. There were many casualties during Russian civil war since Lvov was the contested territory. After WWI, Lviv became part of Poland.

When the Soviet Union annexed this region in 1939, it deported hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles east as part of its state-sponsored terror, which also targeted the local Ukrainian intelligentsia. In 1941, Nazis came in. During the Holocaust, majority of Jews were killed in ghetto or transported to Auschwitz or local Janowska concentration camp.Only about 1000 survived the war but they had to live under Soviet government sponsored antisemitism.

Sensing an opportunity to secure long-awaited statehood, Ukrainian nationalists collaborated in varying degrees with the Nazi occupiers. Some elements staged mass pogroms against the Jewish and Polish communities, while their struggle later shifted against both Nazi and Soviet rule. The nationalists were persecuted after Soviet Union won the war.

Many of Jews emigrated to Israel and USA in 1970’s. After fall of Soviet Union, Ukraine became independent country. Lvov was renamed in Lviv (Ukrainian name). Currently about 5,000 Jews live in the city. There are still some issues with antisemitism, but it is a very active Jewish community, with synagogue, Jewish school, and various Jewish organizations.

It is still complicated history and relationship between Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews but the citizens are working on put the tragic history behind and commemorate its many victims.

We walked to the former Jewish sector and Ghetto, saw a monument to victims of the Ghetto and the ruins of the former “Golden Rose” Synagogue, it is one of the oldest synagogue in Ukraine and one of the oldest and most beautiful synagogues in Europe. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Also known as Turei Zahav, the Golden Rose synagogue was built In 1582. It was one of the most spectacular late-sixteenth-century Renaissance architectural landmarks of the city. For centuries it was a center of culture and learning for local Jews. In 1941, the Golden Rose Synagogue was completely looted, then later demolished wth explosives by the Nazis. All that survives is part of the structure’s northern wall. It bears a plaque written in English, Hebrew and Ukrainian.

During the Soviet period the building lay in ruins. In the late 1980s, the municipal authorities carried out some conservation work, and in the 1990s, architectural historian Sergеу R. Kravtsov made a computer simulation showing the synagogue at all stages of its history. The area of the remains of the synagogue has been cleaned up and memorial park was created.

Volunteer work.

There is a Program for the Regeneration of the Jewish Quarter of Lviv. The Program is grounded on rigorous archaeological, historical and architectural research conducted by Ukrainian scientists. They suggest a gradual restoration of the Golden Rose synagogue to its original state in the 16 century. But the first priority is preservation of the existing ruins.

Also the work is being conducted on rescuing Jewish gravestones (Matsevas) because Nazis and later Soviets looted cemeteries and paved streets with gravestones. 60 years later, Lviv Volunteer Center (Sasha Nazar and his team) pulled nearly 100 Jewish headstones out of the road and transported them headstones to the Yanivskyi Jewish cemetery.

These are very important projects for preservation of Jewish history so if anyone wants to make a donation, contact them

I arranged to spent this afternoon with volunteers from local Jewish community Charitable Organization Hessed Arieh and Lviv Volunteer center. We’ve met Ari, who a young man who was born in Odessa, emigrated to Israel as a child and few years ago he came to Lviv and stayed. Being non-religious, but he got involved in local Jewish community. He feels there is much enthusiasm in Lviv and it is exciting time to be there.

Some of the projects recently conducted are construction and refurbishing of former Chassidic Jakob Glanzer synagogue circa 19c built in Baroque style. It was financed by Lviv merchant Jakob Glanzer, hence the synagogue is named in his honor. In 19c it was second largest synagogue. It survived WWII but after that Soviets used it as a gym. The building is neglected. One of the volunteers I got to know, Sasha Nazar and his team are hoping to restore it and use as a museum and cultural center. We walked to the synagogue with Ari to see the progress of the restoration. On the way we walked through Jewish quarter Ari pointed some sites related to the Jewish history.