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Sunday, August 17, 2008

A day of culture

Let me first pick up where I left off with the story of my aunt Clara, and then relate some of the incidents of the last few days.

My aunt came back here to Czernowitz, in I believe 1938 or 1939, according to my cousin to break off a relationship with a man, according to my mother, to marry him. In any case she met my uncle Murray, did break up with the other man, and Clara and Murray married. She went back to New York without him to arrange the papers, and he followed, apparently in one of the last ships to leave with people fleeing Hitler. My Uncle got a message while on the ship that my cousin, Sandra, had been born. Murray said that Clara saved his life, and that all his family was lost. I wonder about the other man, if he survived.

Back to present day Cernowitz - I did go searching for the graves of Mortke Glaubach and Sure Jers Glaubach, my great-grandparents, a few days ago. That turned into more of an adventure than I had bargained for. i was able to figure out where the graves should be, but getting there was another thing. I walked into the jungle confidently, sickle in hand, and was able to get to perhaps 10 graves and determine that they weren't the right ones. The I found myself totally entangled in vines. it was impossible t o take more than a couple of steps without hacking away, taking another step or two, and hacking away again.It took me about ten minutes to disentangle myself, but felt like an hour. Worst of all, I was covered with nettle stings on my arms. On other days, it had just been a few areas and the stinging went away fairly quickly. This turned int more of an allergic reaction, huge welts that both stung and itched. It lasted a couple of days, but luckily has almost disappeared overnight last night. No fun.

I think that is going to be the end of my searching for relatives' stones, mine or other peoples. i am not sure how disappointed I am to not locate them. It would have been nice to find them, certainly, and I wonder how i would have felt if I did. I am disappointed, but don't feel devasted. I don't really feel that this was my major motivation in coming.

On Friday afternoon we went, with bus and driver donated by the one remaining synagogue here, to Sadagura, now actually a part of Czernowitz, but formerly a separate community on the other side of the Prut river. The Czernowitz rabbi came with us. There is another cemetery there, also neglected but much smaller, and a tiny building that I don't believe is a synagogue, but which protects a few graves that it is built upon. And, we went to the site of the Palace of the Wonder Rabbi! This rabbi was renowned in the 19th century for his wisdom and advice, which he dispensed to Jews and non-Jews alike. He was widely famous, and is mentioned in literature by various writers. His house was a virtual palace. It was used in Soviet times as some kind of factory, now is abandoned, fenced in, and in ruins. The rabbi said it wasn't possible to go in, but a man came over with a key and let us in. I thought that perhaps the rabbi felt it was too defiled and painful to look at, but that may be just my own projecting onto the situation. The rabbi himself was quite a character, as far as i could tell from his gestures and a few things that were translated. He of course was dressed in black with a long beard, and made lots of Tevye-esque gestures. When someone mentioned the International Yiddish Conference that was beginning here today, he shrugged and said something to the effect that those weren't really Jews! But it all seemed quite good humored.

The Yiddish conference, on the annivrsary and on the same site as the one 100 years ago, begans this afternoon. We went to the opening. Several people spoke, and some were tranlated into English, what a treat! They were mostly the Russian and Ukranian speakers. The man who spoke the longest spoke in Yiddish, and he wasn't translated, probably because the translator didn't speak yiddish, or maybe because most people did speak Yiddish. There are a lot of speakers over the next week, from all over the world. including one from Cambridge, USA and one from Waltham USA. If some are speaking in ENglish, perhaps I will go. They said that out of respect for the victims of the recent flooding and the Russia-Georgia conflict, they were cancelling the two Klezmer concerts. But they are keeping a concert tomorrow night of Yiddish music from here, i believe, and I got to speak to the woman, who is from Israel, a bit. I really look forward to that. I have not been successful in tracking down any traditional music, Jewish or otherwise, or much at all in th way of crafts. There is a crafts market in a town about 60 km. from here, but that is a 2 hour 2 bus ride, and I couln't find anyone who wanted to come with me today.

So I went to the local art museum this morning, from which I wasn't expecting much, and which was a total treasure. I took my time through the first two rooms, which looked like medieval Christian iconography, but were actually done in the 19th century. If I had realized what lie ahead, I probably would have skipped those rooms. Although there was one large mural depicting Judgement Day, at which you had to peer closely because it had darkened, that was alone worth visiting in. It was Bruegel-like in its detail and grotesque quaalities. There were scenes of all kinds of brutality, and a multitude of devils with horns and spears and glowing red eyes. And then, side by side, a group of Hasidic looking men in traditional black hats and coats, and a group of frightened looking naked people all herded together. Obviously, this painting, done in the 1800's had no connection to the Holocaust, but in my current situation I couldn't help but make the association. And i did wonder what the significance was of the Hasidim. Couldn't find anyone to explain.

There were also absolutely wonderful woodcuts, a small room of them by a man, a Jew, named LeonKopelman, who died in 1982. And some really lovely paintings, landscapes and portraits. And upstairs, a whole floor of handicrafts, mostly embroidered clothing and painted eggs, cases and cases of them. I think i could have sat there, surrounded by them, for quite a while.

This morning, on the way downtown, I took a walk through the market, always an intersting thing to do. One small impression - a young woman sampling a bit of yoogurt by having the seller spoon a bit onto her hand, which she then licked, then trying a couple more from different vendors before deciding. The yogurt was all in reused soda and water bottles.

I will continue with events and impressions as soon as I find the time, hopefully tomorrow.

1 comment:

Debra said...


It is fascinating to read of your volunteer project. I am enjoying it thoroughly. Saw Loring and the kids this weekend as Patience and I went to visit before she begins college. I hope the next time we visit Mass we can stop by to hear more of your adventures. I look forward to the next installment.