UCSB Oral History Project
Nina's Story

UCSB Oral History Project Homepage > Nina's Story Homepage > Visit to Lviv

6 Day trip to Lviv, 5-11 August 1999
(These are the first 6 pages of a total of 45 handwritten ones. Someday we'll type them in!)
(January 30, 2011: This past weekend I corrected the transcript Laurence did in Sept. 2006 and added it below.)


This is a travelogue by Harold Marcuse (see his homepage), a 41 year old history professor from California, who spent 6 days in Lviv with 78-year-old Nina Morecki, a Holocaust survivor born there in 1920, and her 49 year old American daughter, Carol Morecki-Oberg.
Please note: this is a draft version, put on the web in May 2000 by special request. It was written in August and Sept. 1999.

The idea to take this trip didn't come until early June, after an oral history videotaping session with Nina. Nina was 18 and had lived in the city all her life when the Soviets occupied it in 1939. Her father, who owned an estate at Soluky, about 10 km. west of town, and was running a soap and candle factory in Lvov that his wife had inherited, was expropriated and imprisoned as a capitalist. He was deported to Siberia, where he died under unknown circumstances. Nina's plans to study medicine in Italy or Palestine-Jews weren't allowed to study medicine in Poland-had to be dropped. She and her mom had cordial relations to the Soviet officer quartered with them, and he offered to take them along when the Germans invaded in June 1941. They decided not to go, and thus began Nina's odyssey through ghetto, concentration camp and undercover work in a German post office for the Polish underground. (For her story in detail, see the web site we're creating: www.history.ucsb.edu/projects/holocaust.) Anyway, in June my students working on the project found a 1938 Polish city map of Lvov in UCSB's map library, and Nina simply blossomed showing us her old addresses and describing the houses, attractions, other tenants, etc.

To make a long story short, I suggested the trip, Nina's younger daughter agreed to come along, and we started the process of getting visas and preparing for a trip behind what used to be the "iron curtain." The web was our first stop, where esp. the Brama web site got us started. We later purchased the relevant Lonely Planet guidebook as well. Calling the hotels in Lviv for the officially stamped confirmation of reservations wasn't a problem-both the Grand and George hotels had English speaking receptionists and faxed the documents to us. We used express mail to expedite our tourist visa applications (cost: $75 each). Since we were on such a tight schedule the Ukrainian embassy in Washington turned them around in 6 days instead of the usual nine, getting them back to us with a couple of days to spare. (Click for more details on travel preparations.)

We flew British Airways from Los Angeles to London to Warsaw. The Air Ukraine connection from Warsaw was our first concrete indication that this trip was going to be something a bit out of the ordinary. It was on a small Russian-built 24-seater that was, well, different than the smaller US-built city-hoppers we are used to. It was a good bit roomier and more tastefully designed, with round, porthole-like curtained windows, thin seat backs, and tastefully patterned wall-to-wall carpeting. It didn't have amenities like seat back trays or air jets, and FAA regulations (stow this, stow that, listen here, listen there) clearly didn't apply. On board were mostly business people, quite a few Americans and other, perhaps Polish English-speakers, including a lady with laptop and cell phone who borrowed our Time magazine. It was too loud on the sturdily built prop jet to talk, so we dozed before and after the Turkish-style coffee and layered cookies were served. I figured out how the digital video camera worked, and filmed a little of the farming and settlement patterns out the window. The Lviv airport was beautifully renovated. It reminded me of Berlin-Tempelhof, built by Hitler in the 1930s, but smaller and less pretentious. We later learned that it had been freshly spruced up for last May's meeting of eastern European heads of state, also attended by Hillary Clinton.

In the small gate waiting area we filled out customs forms and purchased the mandatory health insurance for non-former-Soviet bloc citizens ($4/week), then proceeded through the border authorities. Our guard x-ed out the blank spaces on the form with a flourish, poked around in my bag a bit, and let me start counting my currency for him before waving us through. This was a far cry from the border guard antics crossing into the socialist bloc before 1989-I was almost nostalgic.

We were fortunate to be met by a local resident. One of my students had worked in Ternopil, Ukraine, for a Christian mission. Her friend, who was still in Ternopil, *we got Sasha, the son of an English teacher who's friends with the head of the mission organization in Ternopil. Sasha, a 23-year-old Ph.D. candidate in Lviv's Forestry University, was there to pick us up with his friend Igor, who has a VW van for his shoe-selling business at a local bazaar-type open air market. Sasha had been in North Carolina and Georgia with "Helping Hands," a primarily Baptist/Pentecostal group. Lots of religious revivalism in Ukraine-apparently with outside help. In spite of his work with the organization, Sasha had never been to church, and wasn't interested in starting. Sasha's father is vice president of Forestry University. In Soviet times he was a professor, did projects like setting up "lines" to get tree trunks out of the Carpathian mountains-some are still in use, Sasha says. Then the father moved up to dean, now VP. So I'd guess they're fairly well off. The father makes about $400/month, the mother $150. Sasha is teaching a university course now, at $100/month. (By way of comparison, my wife made $1100/month net as a lecturer teaching one course at UCSB last spring.) Such docents need a one-year post-graduate course of study to become a "specialist." Sasha is writing his dissertation on the ecological impacts of logging in the Carpathian mountains-following fittingly in his father's footsteps, but with a "green" post-production-oriented communist twist. He'll need about 3 years beyond his first post-grad year in order to get his Ph.D.

Anyway, back to the airport. The various forms of currency equivalency and conversion will take some getting used to-the fixed currency exchange rates have some loopholes. Tourists sometimes get charged a special rate, e.g. $20 from the airport, while going to it costs only the "native" rate of 20H ($5). Our hotel room without bath cost $23/night, a room with bath a more western (but still cheap) $75. Dinner for five at a small restaurant just off Prospekt Svobody (the main drag) was a ridiculous 41 Hryvny total, about $9.25. From one of the ubiquitous exchange booths, often just yards from each other, the rate varies about 2-3% (say 4.40 to 4.55H/$). They are supposed to set a rate in the morning and are not allowed to change it all day. During our week in Lviv at the hotel bank it went from 4.40 to 4.65, then back to 4.55 on the last day. That would work out to be a 160% annual inflation rate (15/450 times 52 weeks, or 1.6 times its original value). They post a selling price for dollars, but don't sell them. And as we found out on our last day, late in the day the exchanges do run out of Hryvny.

Let me describe our hotel, the Zhorzh (George). Built in 1856, it has a distinctively 19th century feel. The neo-Baroque staircase is quite impressive, with colored ersatz-marble columns, mirrors, leaded and colored art-deco windows, geometric ceramic tiles under sometimes threadbare oriental rugs, and ornate railings, but still not as grand as the hype in the guidebook led me to expect. Most visible surfaces are well painted, but it is not hard to find peeling paint (between the double room doors, on the balconies). It is fun being able to stay at such a patrician hotel at reasonable prices! The furniture is plain mass-produced 50s style, probably made in the 60s or 70s. It's serviceable, if completely drab and by no means elegant. The rooms have Persian carpets and wallpaper patterns stenciled onto plaster walls-mine a tastefully abstract holly-leafy design in shades of green, framed by a band along the top and corners. My room had a radio that didn't work-when Nina and Carol had to change to a room without bath on the last day we found that for only 10H more you can get a TV that doesn't work instead. There is a sink in the room; the shower on my floor didn't work, so I had to get the key from the front desk, then go up to the third. Not very convenient, but I got a better look at the goings-on in the hotel that way.

Day 1: Friday, Aug. 6, 1999

The breakfasts are sumptuous, in a luxurious Chinese tea room. Each day they served something different: fried, boiled or scrambled eggs, a delicious doughy omelet, English-muffin-sized doughy disks filled with sweet ricotta cheese and fried in oil, kasha porridge. Right after breakfast we were approached in the lobby by a young woman selling hand-embroidered blouses, tablecloth-napkin sets, and an assortment of dolls. She couldn't sell her wares in the lobby here, she told us, in contrast to the Hotel Dnistr, the Soviet-era noble hotel, which had just been fixed up for Hillary et al, where she could set up a table. So we took her upstairs, and I bought a blouse for my six-year-old. Rozlyn's price went quickly from 80H to 50 ($11), but she didn't want to go lower, so I left it at that. I later saw that the 80 could be bargained to 40 at the souvenir market off the north end of Svobody, but bought another one from Rozlyn a few days later anyway, since we had an opportunity to talk and she told me her family story. She has a 5-year-old, so I also found a thankful taker for some of my crayons and children's gifts.

Rozlyn's story [41]

Nina was anxious to get going and see her childhood home at Kopernika 10, just around the corner from the hotel. On the way we stopped to look into an interior courtyard. It was quite peaceful, although some war (?) damage was still visible. Laundry was hanging from window racks, a few cars were parked at the sides, English-language graffiti adorned the walls, a fire crackled under a pot of tar, stirred by a fellow fixing a roof.

At Kopernika 10 we immediately got into conversations with two young women taking a cigarette break on the 2nd floor courtyard balcony. They work for a US AID project bringing Land-O'Lakes consulting expertise in agribusiness (production efficiency and marketing are the two main areas) to Ukraine. In two months the two-year project will end; Oksana hopes the possibility of a second one will come through. She's studied Ukrainian language and literature, with an English minor. She spent 5 months in Minnesota with LoL, spoke perfect idiomatic English. Her friend, who had to go inside for something, also spoke quite well. Their jobs, in a modern office, are probably top-notch for 20-somethings in Ukraine. She chatted quite knowledgeable with me about university teaching, US AID, and Ukrainian politics and economics, tourism.

There are fewer cars on the streets these days, she said, because the price of gas just quadrupled, since Russia no longer sells at preferred prices. A few days later Udo, the German red cross volunteer, had a different explanation: it was a manufactured crisis, designed to delegitimize the current government right before the elections. At any rate, Oksana also suggested that that was the reason for the dollar's present rise. The presidential elections are at the end of September. A social democrat (Kutshman) is now in office. His party is followed by the communists (20+%) and Ukrainian nationalists (10-20%, depending on region). Sasha called them "Nazis," said they're stronger here in west Ukraine, while the communists ("Nazis on the left") are stronger near Kiev and in the east. Did Oksana like elections? Yes, clearly, although candidates made far more promises than they kept. Just like everywhere else, I replied. She impressed me as far more knowledgeable, mature, self-confident-worldly-than her peers in most places around the world.

For Nina the tour of her old house-she was about 15 when they left in 1935-must have been a confusing rush of emotions. Her top-floor apartment had been subdivided into 3 units-all very different looking today. So different, in fact, that the jolt experienced by so many Holocaust survivors who returned after the war to find their furniture still in the rooms and their pictures on the walls of the new "owners'" apartment, didn't hit her. Two reasons, I guess: for one, she had already been back in 1945-46 and probably experienced that jolt then, and her family had moved out of this particular apartment long before the war. Nina's later reaction at the house on Platz Strzeletsky, where the family lived when the Germans came, was quite different.

With Sasha we headed past the rynek (main city square) to one of two synagogues his British friend had told him about. (He hadn't known anything about the history of Jewish Lvov himself, even though six decades earlier a third of the city's population had been Jewish.) Parked in front of the city hall were several diplomats' cars: the latest model Volvos and BMWs, a few luxury VW models, and quite a few Russian Volgas and Ladas. Sasha explained that the latter go by model numbers instead of the usual western names with marketing appeal (Intrepid, Prelude, etc.): "7th" had the most horsepower, "11th" had a sleeker profile and leather upholstery. We took a right turn at the statue of Ivan Franko, the translator and printer of the first Russian bible, known as the "Russian Gutenberg." Another jog to the right took us along a quite impressive section of the old city wall, to a small empty lot on a side street. Nestled in the back were the ruins of a synagogue destroyed in 1942. A marble plaque in Ukrainian and English marked the site, as did some graffiti, including a swastika. The plaque, similar to several others we would see in the coming days, was erected by foreign Jewish organizations after Ukrainian independence in 1993.

We then went back to Prospekt Svobody to catch a private bus to the Mihnovskyh St. synagogue to the west of the center, the only one of 45-50 Jewish houses of worship in the city to escape complete destruction by the Nazis. (The German occupiers had used it as a stable.) Svobody-Liberation Boulevard-received its name in 1993. During the Polish years from 1920 to World War II it was named after Hetman, a 17th century Polish general, then Adolf-Hitler-Strasse, then after 1945 Stalinallee, and after Stalin's fall from grace in 1956, Lenin Blvd. A lot of history resides in a name!

It was just starting to rain, so most of the buses were crowded, but eventually a #75 with a couple of empty seats came by. The private buses cost .80H each, as compared to the .30H of the public streetcars. The buses can be flagged down or asked to stop anywhere along their routes. You pass your fare forward to the driver, and your ticket and change are passed back to you. The driver does all this while navigating pedestrian-crowded cobblestone streets, shifting gears and answering passengers' questions, on this particular morning in a beginning rain.

The Mihnovskyh St. synagogue is only two tram stops from the main train station. It was a bustling construction site on the Friday afternoon we arrived, with a group of people clustered in the entryway, a table saw screeching in the courtyard, young female masons plastering the walls inside. Nina tried to communicate with an older man who spoke Yiddish, but not Polish. I tried German and could understand a little more, but we really didn't make much progress until we realized he could speak Ukrainian with Sasha, who would translate into English for us. The man had come to Lviv in 1946 after having spent time in Siberia. He was now one of the approximately twenty of Lviv's 5,500 Jews who actively prayed each morning and evening. He said that about 100 Jews came to synagogue for Friday shabbat services. When pushed, he said that he "assisted" at the services, but somehow (esp. given the condition of this sole remaining synagogue) I don't think there are organized services, much less an ordained rabbi, in Lviv.

The building, built in 1925, had impressive murals painted on the walls and ceiling. I could make out a few religious motifs, but mostly mythical beasts. The stained glass skylight was broken in a few places, lumber and Styrofoam insulation stacked everywhere, but we could see down from the gallery that there were seats around the bema. The renovation was being paid for by the Jewish "Joint" (Distribution Committee) in New York, an organization founded after WW2 to distribute German restitution funds (and private donations?). I'm sure this project is providing some badly needed jobs as well as rescuing a rate surviving relic of Lviv's once vibrant Jewish community. (Of about 150,000 prewar Jews, perhaps 200 had been able to survive in hiding. It's not known how many survived incognito and/or in emigration, as Nina had.

Our "guide" described to Sasha where the Sholem Aleichem society was, so that we could visit it later on. (I knew from a published bibliography that this organization had published brochures about Lvov's Jews during Nazi occupation in 1997 and 1998). We left to walk the mile or so to Shevchenka St. (formerly Janovska), were the Jewish cemetery and concentration camp had been. We stopped along the way at the rather desolate parklike playground of a kindergarten for a snack and a rest. The play equipment was gone, benches broken, and only a series of once-elaborate gatelike structures testified to the onetime existence of a wooden fence. Sasha said there are plenty of state-run kindergartens for all kids over 3. There is a demographic crisis in Ukraine, a low birth rate and high emigration. The population shrank from 4.4 to 4.2 millions (am I remembering the figures correctly?) over the past couple of years.

A quick personal anecdote about the new name of Janovska St.: Shevchenka. Somehow I had been under the impression that this national hero's name was the Ukrainian pronunciation of the Russian dissident poet Yevtuchenko, whose epic poem "Babi Yar" (name of a ravine near Kiev where 35,000 Jews were machine-gunned by Germans on Sept. 25 & 26, 1941), set to music by *Prokofiev, was well-known to me. I was surprised that the street could have been named after him during the Soviet era, and pushed Sasha on the point. Finally he replied: "Well, he was a hero, even if they didn't publish all of his works." Later, when I saw and deciphered the cyrillic spelling of the street name and realized it couldn't be Yevtuchenko, I asked Sasha again. He thought Yevtushenko might have been a famous soccer player, but had never heard of the writer. I'll have to check on the correct spelling. At any rate, given Sasha's solid educational background, I surmise that knowledge of the dissident writer had been quite effectively suppressed! Lviv's famous son poet Shevchenko, the Ukrainian hero with a huge statue on Svobody, a large street and a boulevard (behind the Zhorzh hotel) named after him, is known to everyone!

The Jewish cemetery was both interesting and disappointing. You could see modern graves over the low wall, and there was a dead cat on the sidewalk near the entrance where Sasha bought fresh flowers from one of the old sidewalk saleswomen to lay on his grandfather's grave. This is a mixed Jewish-Christian cemetery, the oldest graves being from the late 1940s near the entrance (Cyrillic inscriptions, a very few in Hebrew). The further in you go there are a few Christian graves interspersed, then only Christian ones further back. It is common to either etch in or include a small enamel portrait of the deceased on the headstone.

When I filmed up and down the main avenue of the cemetery, a man on a bench commented that my video camera looked just like a regular camera-at least that's what I took him to mean. We found one interesting headstone from a Jewish woman who died in 1958 who had included the name of a relative who had died in 1942. Near the entrance was a small obelisk with an etched candle for the Jews who had been murdered in 1941-42. That would have included Nina's mother and siblings.

We left the cemetery the way we entered, and hiked around the outside and up Shevchenka to the former Janovska concentration camp. Sasha's retired uncle had once been a guard there, so Sasha was familiar with the place.

I was rather surprised to see, behind the high, barbed-wire topped walls, the dark and looming remains of a huge factory. A look at the Holocaust Atlas Map revealed that, indeed, a huge FF-controlled German Army Equipment Works (DAW) plant was there, with the concentration camp merely a small appendage on the far side. And, as we already knew from the map, it was next to a main railway trunk line. Looming blackened smokestacks, high brick walls with large boxy metal fans and equipment-nothing appeared to be running or even operational, but ominous nonetheless. We walked up the road to the entrance, where a guard in camouflage fatigues made it clear that we should not be there. The entrance, with a more recent girder-supported automatic gate, was at the same site between the plant and the prison as the original concentration camp entrance. It reminds me of the "Oswiencim Chemical Works" in former Auschwitz-Monowitz, the former Buna works of I.G. Farben, still producing chemicals as a government-run Polish factory, with huge red brick structures pocketed among more modern ones.

It was the end of the tram line 7, so we got on and rode back to Fedorov, the Russian Gutenberg, and walked to the hotel.

We had dinner-we were tired-at restaurant Stefanya, a little place at our end of Pr. Svobody, which Sasha claimed to have the best food for a reasonable price in all of Lviv. The menu had English translations (that gave us the courage to try a dinner on our own there later!); I took Sasha's recommendation and had the meat-filled blintzes (translated as pancakes) with mushroom gravy. There were really very good. Nina was very pleased with her fried chicken roll, Carol glad the French fried potato wedges were light and not too fatty.

Day 2, Sat., Aug. 7, 1999 (written early in the morning of day 3).

These first two days have been so intense, I hardly know where to begin. Yesterday morning I took a good three hours to write up day one, and day two was also so full of impressions. It's such a godsend to have Sasha, who is feeling increasingly comfortable around us, and is, I think, getting something interesting out of our questions and program.

After my long journal-writing session (what a great way to digest and make the most of one's trip!-but only possible when not traveling with kids!!). I went down to the desk to get the key for the hotel shower one floor up. Just a small tiled bathroom with a sink, small table in a corner, radiator in another, and a hose-shower in the fourth. No wait, although someone had been in before me.

Carol had had difficulty adjusting to the time change, so when I knocked at 9:15 she was just getting up. I read some more in Leon Wells' book Janovska Road-more about that 16-year-old Holocaust survivor's memoir of Lvov some other time-and we had a late breakfast. Today it included watery sunny-side-up fried eggs. We made it down just in time to meet Sasha at 11.

We decided to walk to the 2nd synagogue, but when Sasha told us, as we walked by countless-truly!-wedding couples (those not driving were going to the *Mishkevysha monument across from the Zhorzh to have their pictures taken), that summer Saturdays are traditional wedding days, I suggested we go to Pototsky Palace on Kopernika instead, as the guidebook had said it was a popular wedding venue.

What a scene!

The street was already jammed with procession cars, the groom's usually decorated with two interlocking gold rings on the hood. At the palace itself there are at least 2 "chapels"-rooms where civil servants "register" the marriage. Sasha said the groom starts by decorating the car and driving to the bride's house to ask her parents if he can have her. Assuming a positive answer (not always a given, if the bride's parents know the groom is a deadbeat or drunk, for instance), they then drive to a place like Pototski to get "registered," go take pictures (monuments make popular backdrops, remember Lenin's tomb at the Kremlin!), then they would go to a church (the civil ceremony being the legally binding one-a legacy of socialism), and afterwards have a reception.

Well, if the bridal traffic on Kopernika had been hectic, Pototski was positively frenetic. Procession/entourage cars, piloted by testosterone-charged best men jockeying for position, gypsy children begging, street musicians performing, everyone trying to take pictures (finally I was only one among many with a video camera), wedding parties appearing from all sides with flowers and traditional bread cakes, the women, who usually dress quite fashionably, were really dressed to kill today. If very mini skirts or dress slits to the upper thigh are the norm, today they were slit up to the hip bone; if tight is the norm, today it was tight in velour or stretch material.

Anyway, we went inside and watched how the groups were essentially queuing up in the anterooms to register. I joined the other cameramen to film, but it was next to impossible-although chaos would give a better impression than a calm, smooth narrative.

Afterwards we went down Pr. Svobody, with a peek in the Grand Hotel on the way. At the far end in front of the opera house-which Sasha says is the third most beautiful in the world after Vienna and Odessa, we watched the kids driving around in those battery-powered plastic cars, near where you could get your picture taken in a stuffed animal jungle setting with the opera as a backdrop.

We browsed across the nearby souvenir market-Carol bought some jewelry, I a few carved wooden boxes that will make nice birthday party favors for my 6-year-old daughter's next party. The equivalent of $2-2.50 each, they are infinitely nicer than some K-Mart junk, and the people here do so need the money. The salespeople quoted prices that were 2H (50 cents, or 20%) below the sticker price, but weren't willing to bargain, even when I bought several.

[Above, about 1/7 of the total journal, was typed in in 2003.
On 1/30/2011: the rest below was added. }

I didn't push it--after all, the prices are already so trivial. The embroidered blouses in child's size started with asking $10 (I paid $11 to the young woman our first morning), but dropped to $5 as I walked away! The paintings were awful kitsch. One man had old banknotes and stamps, another Soviet officers' caps and medals. Should I get some for 4C, the modern Western Civ course I teach? Nina and Sasha were impatient, so we went on to Nina's family's retail outlet to the soap and candle factory. It is right opposite the front of the opera! Today it is a suit store; back then they shared the space with a candy store. I wonder what it is like for Nina to see these things--and so irrevocably changed. We walked up past the Marionette theater, which is at one end of what used to be Platz Jeletski, now Danyla Halytskoho (Placki Strzelecki). Nina didn't recognize it at all. For one thing, it is now planted with trees (~30 years old), but--it came out as we talked--her experience of the place was not as strong. She lived in Kopernika for 15 (maybe 17?) years in Strz. for about 2. And they weren't happy years. The old house was near one of her older sister's, who had a niece whom Nina adored. They went to Soluki then, and she was young and carefree. At Strz. she was finishing high school and had worried about the future, that's the home where the Soviet major was quartered, her father awaited, where she hid in the basement during the bombings, from which she went into hiding at her brother-in-law's and from there into the ghetto.

            She couldn't even remember the neo-Romanesque fire station at the top of the square, even though it was celebrating its 150th anniversary and thus must have been there. We went into the courtyard of #2, where they lived in the 1st floor corner apt. on the left. Very decrepit and dirty, with old wood flooring bare, varnish-less, worn and filthy, laundry hanging everywhere, not very pleasant. A few things came back to her, such as meeting friends at what is now the puppet theater (she couldn't remember its function back then) when her parents weren't supposed to know. The apartment was much smaller--her two sisters had married and moved out--but they still had an area for servants. Speaking of marriage, Sasha said that couples don't usually go anywhere on a honeymoon, they can't afford it. They just move more into one of the parents' homes, where they will live, and take a few days off from work. As Carol said, if that is what is the norm and nobody does more, you don't miss it.

            Anyway, we then went off in search of the 2nd "live" synagogue, which wasn't far, near the hideous prefab Hotel Lviv. It isn't a consecrated house of worship, but is in good repair and houses the Sholem Aleichem Society, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, courtesy of generous help from the Jewish "Joint," which was memorialized on several plaques. So it was founded during glasnost, before Ukrainian independence was a twinkle in anyone's eyes (except the ultra-nationalists, who admittedly have their capital in W. Ukraine). They have a very active Sunday school, which will resume Sept. 5. Lots of pictures of little kids--the seed of a new Jewish community?

            There were poster boards with pictures of the unveiling of an impressive socialist-realist-abstract statue memorial at Janowska ravine, the place where Nina climbed out of the corpses. The history brochures by Honigsman were there, as was a placard with some statistics about the history of Lviv's Jewish community.


Total Population





Cultural Societies





































not given






            Tomorrow we'll return between 10 and 11 to have a look in the computer database of all pre-Nazi Lviv Jews, and meet the head of the Society.

            We then had ice cream at an open-air cafe in the park on the other side of the synagogue--I got to place my first order myself. There was an interesting fountain but inoperative. Sasha said that it was very beautiful in Soviet days--the first time I detected a note of wishful nostalgia in his voice. Going towards Krakowska market and Spitalna, which is where the old map showed location of the "old Jewish cemetery," we discovered a newly named Sholem Aleichem St. Sasha is beginning to share our words and curiosity in discovering Lviv's Jewish part. He repeated several times that he could remember seeing a few gravestones when they went to Krakowska market when he was a child (early-late 1980s).

            The Jewish hospital was another mid-19th century glazed brick building, quite impressive with caring Moorish pointed arches and an onion dome Nina remembered it--gave us a lesson in the history of obstetrics: how mother had her babies at home with a midwife, her older sister (in the 1930s) in a clinic.

            Her brother-in-law, the renowned heart specialist, studied in Vilnius--Jews weren't allowed in "conventional" medical schools. And they couldn't do internships at "normal" hospitals, hence the need for specifically Jewish ones. Those, on the other hand, accepted Christian patients as well.

            The market--this was one of the hardest things for me--is on the old Jewish cemetery without any trace of markers--truly eradicated from consciousness. The Nazis won this one, definitively, with a little help from the Soviets and Ukrainians.

            The market is quite a bustle--huge!!--and definitely worth a tourist visit. Sasha took us into the cool cellars of Lviv's brewery, which used to be one of only three--the best one--in the Soviet domain. (The other being Riga and St. Petersburg/Leningrad.) Now, with  money short and machines weren't kept as clean, the ingredients less pure, the personnel less well trained or more careless. He now prefers imported beers--although as a student he often came here for a beer between classes. Sasha says the quality is so bad now that he'd get sick after only a liter.

            We cut through the market, making a bee-line home. Nina said the smells, sun and noise bothered her, but I think the bad emotion brought up by seeing her 2nd home in awful condition, and then this utter erasure of the cemetery were the coup d'grace. We said goodbye to Sasha, wishing him lots of fun at his all-night birthday party, and went into the hotel for a rest before dinner. I relaxed to the sound of a blind accordion player on the sidewalk. Later I put 25 cents in his box--a fortune compared to the few 5 and 10 kopek coins in there. I had done the same to another player on somebody before--after having seen a first (21) feeling for the coins left in his pouch next to the market. I had wanted to give him something on the way back but we didn't pass that way. I don't know whether to feel cheap or generous (a quarter is nothing for me /a gryvna a fortune for him)--I feel awful. Their lives are so futureless and dependent--not that there isn't something uplifting about filling the street with music.

            As Carol said, you don't know which of the beggars to give to--the mothers with their babies, the children, the men with their misshapen stomachs hanging out, certainly not the young drunks, like the one who began kissing my hand at the market until Sasha rescued me. I guess I prefer the musicians who do something with their lives--perhaps a remnant of the German work-ethic coursing through my veins. Secondly the mothers, but I have an inherent distrust of their seemingly dire straights. But who knows what their stories really are, and who are we to judge?

            We had a good laugh after dinner when deciding how much tip to leave the rather sullen waitress. Sasha had been firm that we not leave more than a groszy or two, rounding to the nearest whole--it would "spoil" them, he argued. On the other hand, what harm would it do to round off a 44+ groszy bill $10 for dinner and drinks for 4!) up to 50 ($1.20 tip) instead of 45? We decided to compromise and leave her a 2-G note beyond the 45. If we go back there a third time and have her again, we'll see if she's friendlier. After all, why should she be thankful for our alms??

            Ordering without Sasha went fine (though Nina's Polish helped). I ended up with ice cream with  fresh blueberries--a nice treat after only having been able to decipher the first word. We had our first good laugh when plotting on how to ask for the bill (ra-khee-nok) remembering how I had said "good marketplace" (dobre ree-nek) to the waitress instead of a good morning (dobre rah-nok). So it goes-at least I'm trying. Carol thought I might get slapped if I weren't careful since I had no idea what my mistakes might mean. So she took over and used sign language instead. When asking for my room key (#20), I used "van check"--when its actually more like (dventsik [not unlike the German zwanzig])--the latter syllable may have changed because it was the word for "seat" or "scam" the latter Sasha had been using on begging drunks or children. To top that off was a woman at the reception who hadn't been there before--the other had been friendly and honored our efforts at their language.

            After dinner we had a nice stroll down Promende Shevchenka next to the Zhorzh, enjoying the promenading couples. Strolling seems to be the thing to do on dates--the cinema was empty, and the restaurants certainly not full, although young couples, she with peroxide white hair in hyper-ultra mini and skimpy halter top, had been in our restaurant. Her date was in a nicely starched white shirt, in contrast to most of the men, who usually wear patterned shirts with a bit more color--and a good bit more casual--not necessarily good matches for their female companions. Maybe he was coming from a wedding reception, and she using the opportunity to close in for the kill. But as I said, you never know the stories behind them. At dinner I got to tell mine to Carol, with Nina listening intently, how I came to be interested in the pedagogy of teaching about the Holocaust, of which my work with Nina and previous trips to Poland were part. But that is another story for itself.

DAY 3, Sunday, August 8, 1999, 5 pm

Today at breakfast one of the women who work at the hotel reception asked us how long we're staying, whether we could mail a package for her in the US. I agreed out of habit, but Carol, whom she asked, wisely asked what would be in it--"medicine." Turns out it's some kind of liver supplement, a bottle of perfume, and some boxer shorts, so no drugs. So we'll do it, and they gave us $5 for postage. Her daughter studied in Connecticut, married an American and is living in Nashville. Packages, she said, take 2 months and sometimes never arrive. People want to send the strangest things--as if you couldn't get boxer shorts just as cheaply at K-Mart or Target. Or whatever nutritional supplements the daughter needed. Still, you never know what people want or why--I could imagine some American sending dental floss to Ukraine and the courier wondering why someone couldn't get string here, too!

            It's nice to be staying longer in one place--you get familiar with the personnel and the rhythms, and they open up. The couple with  the package wants to take us out, but it will be hard to find a time because of their shifts. After failing again to say "20" correctly I asked the breakfast lady at the entrance who jots down our room numbers whether I had transliterated it correctly into Cyrillic. She wrote it correctly in Cyrillic cursive, which was completely Greek to me. Just a tiny taste of what life must be for illiterate people--nice symbols on the page, but utterly incomprehensible. Still, with Nina's help and her knowledge of Russian, we got a rough Latin phonetic chain, and the new woman at the reception gave me the right key without recourse to English: dvatset. A far cry from the dvadt-sech I started with (chech is "seat" I think).

            We discussed my question about the motives behind the Nazis' failed opera bombing. Carol suggested it might have been a final show of power: if I can't have it, neither will you." But the demolition expert must have been educated, enjoying opera himself perhaps. Did he have no appreciation of the architectural achievement? Was it a blanket order from above that he obeyed (or, my redemptive hope: pretended to obey but intentionally thwarted)? Was it some brutal, "uncultured" military commander who had not cared for it all along? Some dedicated Nazi ideologue who disdained such decadent, "degenerate" art? I doubt we'll ever find out, unless it's buried in some Nazi memoir somewhere. But the question of motivation remains--you need to have at least an answer (or answers) if you want to teach about it, you need to be able to draw lessons from it. Nina suggested "all of the above"--of course she's right, so where should an educator begin teaching "tolerance," empathy, respect for and appreciation of "God's" and human creations, disobedience, independent critical thinking, moral judgment, courage to do what are judges to be "right"? All of the above? For which lessons is the Holocaust best suited? History in general is well suited to showing that there are usually (always?) choices, and what costs and consequences they have.

            Anyway, my blind accordion player was out again this morning. When we went by there was a street woman pestering him. I got some small bills to give him, but Nina wanted to wait until the woman was gone before she talked. We discussed whether he might not be just a pawn or a front for some beggar "pimp." Who knows? At least the money got into his pocket for a while.

            Well, we made it to the Sholem Aleichem Society, which was a bustle of activity. I wonder if they were really all Jewish--though I can't imagine "normal" Ukrainians would work/be there, especially on a Sunday.

            An older man, who came from Kiev ~10 years ago to found the S. A. Society and served as its president for a while marched us straight out and down a few blocks down the 700 Richchya Lvova St. under the tracks to where the 1992 memorial is. In Yiddish he told me that there is absolutely nothing in the execution ravine behind Janowska camp where I had thought it had been erected. This was apparently the/a main entrance to the ghetto. He described the history of the 1992 memorial, for which he did the organizing and fund-raising, all with in the Ukraine with no help from abroad or the Joint, he claimed. 7,000 were at the dedication, from as far away as Australia, the US, Spain and France, Norway, Sweden, etc.

Monday, August 9, 1999, 9am and 6pm

            The tall, black, bulging figure is quite expressive, like a pile of boulders stacked upon each other. You can't quite make out its face, which seems to face upward. One hand is raised as a fist in anger and perhaps resistance, the other palm open and facing upward in a gesture of desperate questioning--why? The single stack of "borders" making up the legs also resembles billowing black smoke.

            It is set diagonally in a large corner post, nicely landscaped with marigolds in front and a few trees behind, and grass rather in need of mowing. Along the sides were a dozen or so private plaques purchased by surviving relatives. 1992. For 49 years nothing, nothing marked the ghetto. Just like nothing marks the site of the huge old Jewish cemetery that is now the bustling Krakawska marketplace.

DAYS 3 and 4 (Sunday & Monday), written Tuesday, 8/10/99, 8:45 a.m.

So no more time for reflection! Let's just try to get the basics down. We left the Sholem Aleichem society with a tour date for Tuesday at 10 a.m. Arcadi P. will have a bus for 7 and an interpreter along, so that Sasha can come too, if he wants. On the way back we ran into Beri Darman, a 69 year-old (born 1930) "Jewish journalist" from (Rumania?) who says he writes for Vorwärts in NY, and Jewish papers in London, Vienna and Paris as well--reporting about the Ukraine. He teaches Hebrew, too, his wife English at the secondary college level. He showed us the sites of some of Lvov's 45 synagogues--empty lots now, also a Beth Midrash. We stopped at the rite of the largest "temple" (I think they use the term, in opposition to synagogue, to denote a more elaborate, non-orthodox congregation)--actually just a block or so from the S. A. Society. The Ukrainian-English plaque was erected with foreign donations about 1995-96, he thought. After he left we sat on a low marble wall under the plaque, talking. People passing by looked at us curiously--when a woman gave me a plastic bag to sit on we surmised that they were wondering why we were sitting on the dirty wall instead of the (well-worn) wooden benches in the middle of the square.

Some notes about other things that happened, which I hope to fill in later:



Tuesday, Aug. 10, 1999, 1 p.m.

Another fast-paced morning. When I went down to get the shower key at 7:45 Rozlyn [the woman selling embroidered blouses] was already there--she worried that she'd miss a busload to/from England if she went upstairs, so we agreed I'd look downstairs when I returned the shower key. Indeed, she asked the doorman and he opened a baggage closet. It seemed she didn't have as much as last Friday, in fact, the same wares minus what she had sold in the meantime. She didn't have a blouse smaller than the one I had already bought. She started asking 70G (by this morning inflation had reached 4.80 G/$, almost 10% in 5 days!). I told her I had seen the same size blouses for 40 G in the store and at the souvenir market, but she didn't want to go down. By the time I had her at 50 she had told me that she was a single mother, the father had left when her 5 yr. old daughter was 11 months old, that she had learned English a long time ago at school and maybe someday could save enough to attend university. Soft soak that I am I gave her 55 G ($11.50--still a steal for a hand embroidered blouse) and she was visibly happy. Later Carol bought a set of 5 nesting babuska dolls.

            Today breakfast (bread, butter, sliced cheese and meat, tomato) came with a big bowl of hot kasha and two hard boiled eggs. Yesterday the big course was English-muffin-sized dough rounds filled with sweet ricotta cheese and fried in oil (consistency was roughly that of mashed potatoes)--very good--, on Sunday very doughy omelets (or very fluffy eggy pancakes) with mushrooms and bacon cubes, before that fried eggs.

            Arcadi P was there at 10am with  another Arcadi, originally from Vinnitza, who didn't speak any more English or German than he Arcadi P. did. Then Nell Grunis arrived--from her wedding it turned out--in her early 50s and sweating in a long-sleeved suit. She spoke some English and German, but nothing near Sasha's. He arrived with  a bottle of Soluky water soon after, thank God [because we couldn't communicate without him]. The eight of us piled into a VW former paramedics'van from Germany, complete with  orange stripe, blue lights and siren horn. It had a row of 3 seats in the middle of the back compartment, and the simple kitchen chairs had been placed inside facing them. The windows were frosted, so Nina sat up front to see out, later joined by Carol.

            First they drove us up castle hill for a view of the city, then to the train station near Janowska camp from which the deportation to the Belzec extermination center left. A bilingual plaque from 1996 was there. The huge rail yard with rusting but active trains was quite impressive.

            I'd like to write up a "tour of Jewish Lviv" for Lonely Planet. Sasha said tram 7 to end station, from Ivan Federov statute at arsenal (but on gunpowder tower side of street), or not another stop until the start of vul. Chevchenka. Out there are Jewish cemetery, prison/factory, station, Janowska Memorial and dog training camp.

            One Arcadi told Sasha a bribe would get us in, the other said that used to be so, but now the Ukrainians were sensitive that visitors would tell the whole world that the police dog training center for all of Ukraine was on the site of the mass grave of 200,000 Jews, so no more visitors. It is pretty horrifying, and I'm not sorry not to be more considerate of their reputation. Of course, other countries aren't much better, with a West German prison in Neuengamme near Hamburg, a NATO bombing range in Bergen-Belsen, Soviet military barracks at Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrueck until the demise of East Germany in 1990.

            From there we went to a Strysky park (1880-90) with Yaci trees, also shoots from the tree Chevchenko grew in his Russian prison in the 1850s. Then to the temple we saw yesterday, a phone call to the man from the red cross revealed where the soap factory was. It now makes mustard and thickened fruit syrup. Some of the workers were a little surprised when I came in with the video camera. I wonder whether it was shyness or unfamiliarity, residual fears from Soviet bloc times, or just a reaction to my presumptuous entrance with the camera. (I had decided not to ask since the gatekeeper had said it "might not be such a good idea" (Sasha's translation) to film in the courtyard. Ultimately I did anyway, in the guise of taping our little group talking.) I discussed with Sasha how much remuneration we should offer--we ended up making a $50 donation to the Sholem Alechem Society.

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 1999, 1:30 a.m.

After I wrote the above Sasha picked us up in the lobby and we went to the Red Cross. Eugen had coffee made for us and served chocolates. While he talked Polish to Nina, Carol spoke with Sasha in English and I talked, in German to a German Red Cross volunteer who had come in (coincidentally?), Udo. Like this morning in the van, an incredible mixture of languages in a small space. (This morning it was Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, German and English--7 languages!)

            Anyway, Udo had some interesting facts to add to help piece together the puzzle of Ukrainian political life. He's probably in his late 20s, been here 2 1/2 years, staying probably another 1+. He's from Freiburg (where my grandfather got his Ph.D. in 1922 and later worked at the university, and my father went to kindergarten in 1932-33, and where I studied from 1977-82), which just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its "sister city" relationship with Lviv. A fitting match, two such beautiful cities.

            Anyway, that is why the Baden Red Cross is funding a volunteer here. They do a soup kitchen and other charity works but especially they bought an apartment to set up an office--a "medico-social center" for people who suffered under the Nazi regime. A Mauthausen survivor ("former prisoner," as Udo put it) [most Germans don't use the word "survivor," preferring a term that implies they were criminals] is the head. (I later asked Carol how "former prisoner" strikes her--she was simply surprised that there were non-Jewish prisoners in the camps.) He has a roster of 290 people, whom they supply with medicine, wheelchairs, money, and organize social/cultural events. One was a trip to Maidanek, the former concentration camp, in Poland a relatively short bus ride from here. It was their wish to go, Udo said.

            Well, he told me about how things have changed since he's been here. I asked about his visa. That turned out to be a sore point. It used to be free, now they are charging him $200 for a multiple-entry visa every six months, even though he is working to help them. It might change from day to day with no rhyme or reason.

            We also talked about the inflation. I told him the Russian gasoline price explanation from Sasha (who is admittedly not at all interested in politics--he didn't even know whether the presidential election is in Sept. or Oct; could only confirm the political parties Oksana had mentioned when we prompted him). Udo thought it was an artificial crisis to make things bad before the election so that the present president, Kutschmann, would lose. Tractors are all standing still, unable to get the gas to bring in the ripe harvest. He told about the last inflation, when it went from 1G=1DM to .50, then kept going. He said he thought the people would be fed up and "not take it any more," but they didn't. He then mumbled something about the passive, laid-back Slavic nature--"it's really true," he added, shaking his head in uncomprehending disgust.

            That left me speechless (I didn't respond)--that a German could be so arrogant and condescending and un-PC [politically correct] towards Slavs, whom he was here to help, certainly as an indirect form of penance for what his grandparents' generation had done (after all, he was assisting at the center for Nazi victims).

[Symbols of musical notes] ~when will they ever learn...?

Reminds me of some memoir I was reading, where a survivor refused to take "alms" (Isaacson, Wiesenthal, Ruth Klüger?). In fact, it was Judith Isaacson I think the scenario goes something like this. In the mid-1980s a high school teacher in a small German town does research on the women who worked in a local factory camp for the Nazis. He's very sincere and does it as a hobby. The town decided to invite some of these women back. Isaacson, now Dean of Students (a high administrative post) at Bates College in Maine, thinks long and hard about whether she should attend or not, and finally decides to go. At some point she meets the woman in the town office who's in charge of taking care of the invitees. That woman expresses to Judith annoyance at the invitees who didn't come and J. I. is livid. The high school teacher is able, with difficulty, to calm her down. Still, Judith sees the townspeople from back then peering from behind their curtains as these filthy, rugged young women marched past. She had been top of her high school graduating class in Hungary and has made something of herself, while these local curtain-peekers are still mired between the narrow horizons of their small-town mind-set.

            Where was I? That was just about it with Udo. We talked a bit about bicycling in Freiburg--I had been in a bicycle club there and knew his village (Opfingen) well. His parents were members of a rival club. He told me about a bike trip he and his brother took from Freiburg to Lviv along the Danube bike path. I'd love to do that with A. and the kids! Once you get up to the Black Forest it's very flat--through Carpathians behind Hungary the passes are ca. 700 m. Maybe someday, and I'll come back to see the open air architecture museum with the kids.

            I wanted to record the anecdote with the woman in the red dress. (I'm still rather embarrassed by my filming escapade this evening.) Yesterday afternoon we walked by a tall, slender and--how shall I say it--very shapely jet-black haired woman in a stunning red sheath dress. Sleeveless, high-necked, slit, ahem let's just say quite far up, with black spikes and the obligatory thong underwear beneath. Now get this: her male partner was in faded, not especially clean blue jeans, moccasin-type shoes, and a slightly crumpled polo shirt. Carol said that it was a dress that an American might wear to a prom or graduation, but I don't think anyone under 24 could wear something like that without a special license. (On the other hand, some of the things UCSB students have on underneath their graduation robes might be comparable. But still, they are at least 21, and they aren't promenading on State St. [main drag of Santa Barbara] on just any old Tuesday afternoon.)

            Ms. Red Dress wasn't exceptionally pretty, but flawlessly made up, as are most of the middle age-bracket of these dressed-to-kill women. The younger ones don't need it, the older don't bother, and still they are dressed to turn heads. Not that the men do, though. That's the other strange thing: no one looks (at least not noticeably, myself included, I hope) or gives any visible sign of compliment or acknowledgement (like wolf-whistling…). Carol says she thinks the well-behaved children who wait patiently at their mother's side while the grown-ups chat, no tugging, no whining, no running off, must be drugged. If they are, then the men must be, too. These women jam into the crowded trams and buses, and I haven't seen any grabs, slaps or other signs of molestation.

            Another explanation might be the national character of Ukrainian males. Tania, the Ukrainian-American woman with her US daughter in the restaurant Monday night, said that Ukrainians were all so serious--she likes to tease them to get them to loosen up. (That's how she spotted us as Americans--Nina smiling and swaying to her favorite songs by the musician with  the synthesizer.) I couldn't claim that all of the Ukrainian men are testosterone--challenged--the car drivers certainly weren't. National character or not, I might feel sorry for one of these women if she were teleported to the streets of Paris or Rome! [because of how the men there would react]

Another case that sticks out in my mind was the tall, leggy woman in Kopernika St. the other morning. She had on a silver-studded black leather dress about the size of a dish towel, held up by spaghetti straps. Carol said she thought she must be a "woman of the night," but Sasha was adamant--she just likes to dress up. My theory is that in socialist times there weren't any fancy clothes to be had, and no one could do something so bourgeois as show off in finery. So for young women today this is the release of a long pent up desire to display. The only problem with that theory is that only the over-23s would have been old enough (namely 14 years old) under communism to have had to repress this hypothetical display drive.

            This hyper-dressiness is simply so incongruous--like the mother in an ultra-tight violet mini dress with lacy edges bending over to shepherd her child around in one of those rented battery-powered kiddy-cars in the square front of the opera on Monday morning.

So, I guess now is the time for "true confessions."

            This evening after dinner I decided to use up the last bit of my last charged video camera battery to make a documentary about how the women dress. (By now I've filmed all the locations I can think of--since we weren't getting into the canine squad grounds.) At first I couldn't figure out how to do it without being totally obvious and obnoxious. Finally I decided I could sit on the high pedestal of the Mitskevich monument at the end of Prosp. Sovbody with the camera on the ground next to me. The room was enough to catch the women across the street coming from Prosp. Shevchenko and the George Hotel, and I could look unobtrusively into the viewfinder. It was pretty hard to aim--at one point I felt like Kommandant Goeth in that scene in Schindler's List where he takes his rifle and trains his telescopic scope on prisoners, then randomly shoots them unawares. It was very sexist and stupid, I admit. Maybe the month separation from A. is getting to me, too. (Grasping at straws for self-exoneration...)

            Thus it happened. Only instead of the few minutes the battery indicator suggested were left, there were maybe more than 15. I also filmed some cops collecting pay-offs, then walked down to the opera house to film there, including the kids in the battery cars. Funny, the only time the men show their testosterone is when they drive--like in the wedding procession cars in the courtyard of Pototsky Palace. Same with the kids--the only mildly disobedient ones were those in battery cars at the opera--one slightly older boy was determined to drive to the opera, in spite of the owner chasing and scolding him.

Probably my most offensive shot was when a group of young girls (maybe 12 years old?) walked right past. Anyway the camera still didn't die, so I filmed a political speech on Svobody and the wild scaffolding at a facade renovation just off the Rynek. I turned to catch some young boys who had stripped to their underwear to play in very green and dirty but not foul smelling water of the Rynek fountain while their mother and sisters watched. The camera finally died, so I didn't catch them swimming and diving.

([marginal note from later:] maybe add comparison to Warsaw couples here)
So now I can't give that tape to anyone to watch our copy--certainly not until I've seen it myself.
Day 6, Wednesday [don't forget the cigarette wastebasket and 2nd day tip explanation, or hotel "kasa/cash-box"--in jail]

Wednesday morning, August 11, 1999, 9:10 a.m.

            Just spent a half hour talking to Rozlyn, the blouse saleswoman in the lobby. I got a thumbnail of her life story and economic situation, then went up and got some crayons, gum and action figures for her 5-yr-old son. Her 68 yr-old grandmother (born 1931) and mother live in a village, where her son also stays. He turns 6 on Nov. 16th (day after my birthday) and will start school in the village in September. She's 25 (b. 1974), grew up and went to grade school there, then came to Lviv for high school; she shared a small apartment with her other grandmother. She married a 20 year old when she was 18--marrying young is very typical, she says, even though neither partner has any economic security or any idea what they're getting into. She thinks that young people in other countries, where they wait until 24 to 30 to marry, are much smarter. Rozlyn studied for one year at a language institute, and it is her dream to complete the full 5-year course of study, then go to the university to study history. But each "learn" (course) costs money, and exams have to be paid separately as well. Her selling season is May thru September, and she can make anywhere from 100-200 Gyvna to $1000 a month. It takes 2 weeks to make such a blouse; she sells things made by her mother, grandmother and some other women in the village.

            She'd like to go abroad, but her connection in Canada, an uncle, doesn't understand how bad things are in the Ukraine. How did they get to Canada? Her grandfather and his brother both had to flee Ukraine in 1944, one because he was a professor of religion. One brother went to Canada because he was single, the other stayed here because he had a wife and child [her, presumably]. The uncle and his wife visited them in 1998, as a childless couple, but had no understanding for her Ukrainian predicament, so they won't find her a job in Canada. So here she is selling blouses to tourists in hotel lobbies. I wish her well.

Friday, August 12, 1999, 8 a.m., airplane from Warsaw to London

            Sasha picked us up and we went to the Red Cross Medico-Social center to meet Mr. Bogdan, a (non-Jewish) Mauthausen survivor, and several of the 290 people his center takes care of, whom he asked in to meet Nina. Mr. Freitag had been hidden by Poles with his parents and grandparents, all of whom survived. Genia had also survived as a hidden child--she showed pictures of her world-class gymnast granddaughter at a competition in Israel. After an hour-and-a-half or so, during which we took a few pictures, we left for the Red Cross office where Nina wanted an official letter of confirmation with stamp that she had been there.

            While we were typing (on an old but state-of-the-art German electric typewriter) I remembered the solar eclipse, and Sasha and I went out to watch it projected by a jerry-rigged pinhole camera obscura. Most people either looked at us as if we were pretty weird or ignored us. A few stopped to look, including one guy and his girlfriend who stared it for quite a while through 2 pairs of sunglasses. No worries about burned retinas here---we could really see how the uncovered crescent (80% eclipse in Lviv) rotated around the top of the solar disk (bottom of our projection).

            We said our dopoBAHchenyas at the Red Cross and headed by taxi for the "South Market," a recent bazaar (3-4 yrs. old) where they sell all sorts of things, especially a lot of those dynamite dresses the Ukrainian women wear. I had fun shopping for a pair of underwear for A. to match the "burnt cinnamon" piece I got her last year. There was one gorgeous white crocheted dress I liked--I tried to find out what might be worn underneath. It turns out it was sold with a sheath dress that was so shear none of us had realized it was there. We ended up buying a skimpy black crocheted dress with a sheer black slip. It will probably be too short and a bit tight around the shoulders/bust for A., but we figured it would fit either Carol's 15 year old daughter or 20 year old niece. Carol got a soccer ball with the logos of the Ukrainian team for her son, and Nina got impatient, so we took the bus 70 back to the hotel.

            We had cake in the little (4 table) retail outlet of the cake factory on Dubayev St., along with 2 tables of dressed-to-kill mid-teen girls. Sasha said he likes the place because they don't allow smoking or drinking--also a reason it's frequented by young girls. The first table, a slightly older (21?) woman I recognized from our first bus ride to Janowska, and two teens (sister and friend), had coke with their cakes, the other 4 (never mind the short laced-back purple sheath dress) had berry juice with theirs. Cake pieces are weighed and sold by the gram. We marched around trying finally to change our money, but just about everywhere was sold out. Our hotel would only change small amounts, as they, too, only had a few Grivny left. (The wads of cash the cashier had were from the hotel, she said.) Finally Sasha and I found a place on Pr. Shevchenka for 4.60 (that day prices had been as high as 4.80), where I changed $40. Turns out that people know the $ had peaked--next morning at the hotel we had to change for 4.55--still 3% higher than the day we arrived a week earlier (110% annual inflation rate).

            Carol and Nina had to give up their room with bath to a group of teens from a Ukrainian-American group from the US that had a prior reservation. Their new room must have been "standard-plus" equipped--it had a TV that didn't work instead of a non-working radio, like mine, and the sink had running water (i.e., it didn't shut off). When they discovered that the window didn't open either, Carol went and got a different room downstairs next to mine.

            I took time out to go to the upscale indoor mall a few buildings down the street to pick out a gift bottle for Sasha. Compared to the day before they had almost nothing left, but a beautiful bottle of Hetman vodka--etched, engraved and painted caught my eye. The saleswoman assured me that it was a special vodka, so I paid the 57H ($12.50)---½ month's salary, and splurged 8H for a special box for the tall, slender bottle. That evening after dinner Sasha was quite taken with it--he said it was the best, the very best vodka. I liked the historical reference--Hetman was the post-Lenin and pre-Hitler namesake for Prospekt Svobody.

            Sasha chatted with Nina and Carol in their room for a bit while I got the gift and letter and "tip" (we decided on $100, about what he makes in 6 months) ready.

            We went for a final dinner at our favorite "Stafanya," which tonight didn't have either blintzes or varenyky. The musician had the night off, and our shy waitress was off early--she changed from her short leather skirt and traditional embroidered peasant blouse to tight jeans and something, well, serious. She already had exquisitely applied indigo blue eye shadow on before she started work. Candid goodbyes and a few hearty, limp Ukrainian handshakes with Sasha ended our last full day in Lviv.

Day 7, Thursday, August 13, 1999

We were up early after another night with  a cleaning and cooling thunderstorm (this one really let loose!). A. had called twice: once with Miriam to tell about the eclipse, which they had seen in Germany, again at 1 am to tell me about the neo-Nazi who had attacked a Jewish kindergarten in LA (see short news clipping on p. 45 [need to scan]). I thought her second call, at 1am was the 6am wake-up call, and rocketed across the room, completely disoriented.

I really wonder what makes antisemites tick--did the gunman really hate Jews, or was he ignorant and afraid? I've been reading the little brochure about Janowska camp, which describes the "usual" barbarities, schisms and brutalities committed by the SS and Ukrainian/Soviet "askaris." How could those guys' morality change so totally over such a short distance in time and space? Primarily it changed back just as quickly--each evening even, for those who went back to families. Certainly it left no obvious traces once the war was over.

            And the not-so-obvious traces? The children who grew up under loveless, disciplinarian fathers, the uncultured coarseness of their pragmatic lifestyles, the constant compulsive retelling of cover stories. And on the positive side, their behavior made the "economic miracle" possible.

            Where was I--antisemites. I think that if there isn't anything positive available, kids have a tendency to use socially negative behavior to create meaning in their lives, to "be someone." But I had better leave pop psychology and stick to things where I'm a bit more competent.

            The group from the US arrived around 8 am--gosh, did they have big suitcases. Most of them spoke some Ukrainian--I wonder if this is a new branch of "ethnic tourism." The country sure could use the influx of hard tourist cash--our rooms and breakfast personnel were visibly overjoyed at the less-than-$1/day $5 gratuities we left them.

            Regarding tips--as I was saying good morning to one of the women, it occurred to me why the wastebasket was full of cigarette butts when I moved in: she had been trying to manufacture an opportunity for me to request her services, as a way of getting or increasing a tip. Ditto for the roll of Ukrainian toilet paper that appeared in my room (of the "one ply grit variety," as the guidebook tastefully put it)--once she saw I had my own and wouldn't ask for more, she just left it. Well, she got a good tip anyway. Of course, it would have been nice if she had vacuumed the paint chips from the peeling balcony door off the floor once. Different things bother different folks!

            In the plane Carol suggested organizing a similar tour for young American Jews--to sites of Jewish culture in eastern Europe as opposed to the "March of the Living," which focuses on dead/murdered Jews in concentration camps, then jet to Israel for the living ones. For the Israel-o-centric (zionist?) sponsors that might be fine, but wouldn't it be a kind of healing process to recover, restore and recreate some type of eastern European Jewish culture? As I wrote before, the most disturbing thing for me is the total vacuum, the simply complete, abstract lack of knowledge of things Jewish. Sasha being a case in point. I can't say whether the interest he seemed to develop so quickly was truly sincere, but he did rise very early Tue. morning to join us on the tour.

August 13, 1999, noon, en route London to NYC

On Thursday we got off from Lviv without a hitch. The customs and passport formalities were a bit opaque for us, but nothing compared to former times trying to cross the socialist-bloc barrier. We were so early we almost got on a flight to Moscow, but the personnel saved us from that embarrassment. After we lifted off we passed over a huge field of rows upon rows of small, apparently rusting helicopters with what looked like crooked rotors and then rows and rows of tiny fighter jets. One took off with  a deafening sound and a cloud of black smoke just as I was boarding the plane. Most of the flight we had cloud cover, but the same river, small houses--now I recognized them as like the new construction we had seen on the way to Solukey, well-tended fields and forests. Poland had a not too different look, although the fields were long, narrow rectangles, not _________.

            After we checked in to our hotel and rested a bit, we went for a walk to the old city and stopped for lunch at a cafe. Not only is Warsaw barely distinguishable from Western European capitals (a few Polski Fiats), Stalin's "Palace of Culture" (1953-55) dominating the new center at the railroad station, a few leftover details of the former Orbis-style in our completely modernized hotel (the oval radiator/heating element in the bathroom, the metal work or the railing of marble spiral staircase, the cracker jack sized double elevator). So, I guess if they had wanted to (and had had the supplies), they could have done it. Nina had a great time reading the news--Polish in actual use!--she didn't even notice when Carol went across the street to get an ice cream for her.

            I was just congratulating myself on how well the trip seemed to have been for her, emotionally, when she confided in me that she had almost had a screaming attack in the van the morning the two Arcadi and Nell Grunis were taking us around. After the first stop she was sitting alone in the cab with  the driver, while we were in back. She had had a lot of questions that were hard to understand thru the little communication window, so Carol moved up front with her. I hope that at least allayed her urge to scream. (She had once told me that that was her way of releasing pent up tensions and fears--just a wild, all out top-of-the-lungs--scream. I don't remember if she said she had ever done it in public or not.)

            Later that evening we got another taste of how close the trauma of the past lay to the surface. Nina wanted to rest, so Carol and I went for a "half-hour" walk--and Nina told Carol she needn't be back on the dot. (Carol has a history and reputation for always coming a little late.) We looked for my friends Mark and Anna's church, then continued on to Stalin's cultural palace, which was a fair distance away. We got back about 45-50 mins. after that half-hour, and found her room door open and an older man coming out. Turns out that she had been calling the front desk and turning the hotel upside down to get the police to look for us.

            She hadn't been worried that we couldn't manage whatever might have happened to us, but simply that something might have. The image of an emergency crew fixing up a drunk who had fallen in the park had played a role, as Carol had thought. I saw a parallel to when she had come home as a teenager and found her mother gone--the fear, panic and helplessness. Thankfully the fear was dispelled as soon as we arrived, and we had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant.

            As we're now taxiing down the runway at JFK airport after landing, I'll add just one more reflection, another retrospective on the Ukrainian women (you can see what's on my mind). The Polish women dress quite stylishly, certainly more so than women in the US, but they are nowhere near as classy as the Ukrainian women. Not quite as slim/svelte, not as well made up (perhaps ruddier complexion), and not as well dressed. A parting comparison: Lviv's women would be right at home, perhaps even candidates for best-dressed, at a Hollywood evening party or the Oscars or such. They probably do a lot more walking and eat less than most of us Westerners. I wonder if that will diminish as the Ukraine moves more towards our "standard." Just the comparison to the women in Poland when I traveled there 2 years ago, who really stood out when we were in Krakow, is quite noticeable. That could be a north-south difference, too, though. Carol immediately noticed and pointed out numerous crying and misbehaving children in Warsaw, and there were equally many smooching couples. It was such a relief to see the men showing some signs of affection--and it highlighted all the more how strange their detachment in Ukraine is. Carol is convinced her drug theory is right--if it is, a Ukrainian with good business sense could single-handedly turn around the country's balance of trade.

Here ends the diary portion. Below is a segment I was going to submit to the Lonely Planet guidebook we used, but never got around to it. Included as a historical description of Lviv in 1999.

Tour of Jewish Lvov

A good place to start the tour is the Lviv main train station. Many of the cattle cars filled with people destined for the gas chambers of Belzec extermination center passed through here. The next subsidiary station just a couple of kilometers to the north, Klepariv, was the point from which the Jews in Lvov's Janovska concentration camp were deported to Belzec. The main train station itself was freshly renovated in 1999 for the first summit of eastern European heads of state, held in Lviv in May of that year.

The first stop on the tour is contemporary Lviv's only functioning synagogue, on Minovskyh St.

It's a 10-15 min. walk, or take any tram (.30 H) from the main station two stops out, where some of them will turn right and continue down Vul. C. Gandery. You should walk forward down vul. Horodetska, crossing it and taking the first left turn (around a cathedral-like church) up vul. Minhovskyh. Just a few houses in on the right is the synagogue.

It was the only one of 45-50 Jewish houses of worship in the city to escape complete destruction by the German occupiers-they used it as a stable. In 1999 it was renovated with funds from the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an organization created in the 1950s to distribute the restitution and reparations funds to be paid by the West German government. Inside, the square sanctuary with an upstairs gallery for female worshippers has beautiful paintings on all four walls and the ceiling, with stained glass windows over the ark of the torah and in the central skylight. They show religious symbols and mythical beasts, as best as I could make out during construction. In 1999 about 20 Jews prayed here regularly, with about 100 coming to the main Sabbath services on Friday nights. (There are about 5,500 Jews in Lviv at the turn of the millennium.)

From here to the next stop you can continue up Mihnovskyh St. about 15min. walking, through a small park (a rather run-down child-care-center) and then out to the right to vul. Shevchenka. Go left down this large street, which was formerly called Janovska (after the town to which it leads). On the right is one of Lviv's largest cemeteries, which *used to be exclusively Jewish. Now the western side contains Jewish graves from after the war to the present, with a simple monument to the Jews murdered in 1941-43 near the entrance. If you want to visit it, go up vul. *Ghroshenka and enter on the left near vul. Gholoia. The Jewish graves are on the left, with the oldest ones closest to the entrance. After a while, they mingle and then give way to Soviet-style non-Jewish graves. To continue the tour, it's best to exit the cemetery as you came in and go back to Shevchenka, then continuing out of the city towards the west. (If you are starting the tour from the city center, you can catch tram #7 from near the Ivan Fedorov monument, and take it up Shevchenka to the terminal station just beyond the cemetery. Note that the #7 doesn't stop between Fedorov and well beyond the Opera house.)

You will come to a fork in the road where Shevchenka veers off to the left (about ¼ mile past the left fork is the Klepariv station, where Jews from the camp were loaded onto death center-bound trains. The station has a commemorative plaque erected in 1992). On the right fork looms what looks like a menacing, disused brick factory complex surrounded by high walls and rusting barbed wire. This is the former factory of the Deutsche Ausruestungswerke, the SS armaments production branch, where many of the Jews in the Janovska camp worked. A ramplike road off to the right leads up to the main entrance of the prison. Army fatigue wearing guards may saunter out to tell you to leave if you get too close. The Soviet-era steel gate that hangs from iron girders and opens with an electric motor closes the original concentration camp entrance, which was located between the concentration camp and the factory. Today that camp, built by Jews arrested from Lvov's streets in 1941, serves as a prison for Ukrainian criminals.

Once the guards have motioned you back down the side road leading to the entrance, you can continue on the street down the hill around to the right. This will be another 20 min. walk, but its historical importance is well worth it. On the right you will come to a monument just below the prison, marking the entrance to the "sands," an area where mass executions of prisoners from the camp were conducted. In 1943 a special prisoner squad was forced to exhume the mass graves and burn the remains of *200,000 people to destroy the evidence of Germany's hideous crimes before its armies retreated westward. Notice the gray steel gate behind the monument. It closes the entrance to the training ground for all of Ukraine's police dogs. Before 1998 one could still bribe one's way into the compound to visit the execution and grave site, but now the government is worried that people will find it scandalous that they are using this place of atrocity and mourning to train their canine squads, so even bribes no longer help. I visited the site in August 1999 with a woman who survived one such mass shooting, crawled from the corpses, fled into the woods, and managed to survive the war. Even she was not allowed to enter. The re-use of concentration camp sites as army training sites or prisons is not unique to the soviet bloc or the Ukraine-Dachau near Munich, Bergen-Belsen near Hannover, Neuengamme near Hamburg, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrueck near Berlin, Buchenwald near Weimar all were used as prisons and army barracks after the war, many of them still serve that purpose in the 1990s.

From here you will walk back up the hill to the terminus of tram #7, or you can take the detour up the south fork of Shevchenka and visit the Klepariv station, which is worth seeing as an impressive train switching grounds in its own right.

The next stop on our tour will be the Krakovsky market, a huge open air and enclosed market that used to be Lvov's huge old Jewish cemetery. Nothing, I repeat nothing, marks its former function. If you can manage it, get off the tram where Shevchenka merges into Horudetska (or at the last stop before the opera, and backtrack a long block on foot). The market lies two blocks north of Shevchenka/Horudetska, east of Kleparivska St. If you are backtracking from the opera, you can go north on the newly renamed Sholem Aleichem St., which ends at a corner of the Krakovsky market at Rapoport St. Sholem Aleichem, by the way, was a famous *Yiddish Zionist writer, born in Lviv.

On Rapoport St. is a large brick hospital. Six-pointed stars of David in the brickwork testify to its origin in the 19th century as a Jewish hospital. It was set up because Jewish physicians were not permitted to practice in non-Jewish hospitals. (Non-Jews, on the other hand, often went to the Jewish hospital for care by its specialists.)

There is nothing "Jewish" to see at the Krakovsky market, at least I could find absolutely no trace of its heritage as a Jewish cemetery. Older people remembered seeing some gravestones near it in the 1980s, but even those have disappeared. You can quell your sorrow at this fact at Lviv's brewery on Kleparivska St. just north of the market. It used to be one of the three main breweries in the Soviet Union, but since the dissolution of that empire its captive market has disappeared, and the beer is now of mediocre quality. Still, the vaulted cellars are worth a peek. And the bustling Krakovsky market itself is well worth seeing, if for no other reason than as evidence of the present's ability to forget the horrible past.

The next stop on this tour would be the entrance to the ghetto (see the map) set up under German administration in September 1941. You can take any side street from the Krakovsky market east to 700 Years Lvov (700 Richchya Lvova) St., which is the continuation of Prospekt Svobody northward beyond the Opera house. Just after you go under the railroad bridge you will see a large monument on the right hand side. This contorted bronze figure, with one open palm stretched upward in an imploring gesture, the other fist raised in angry defiance, was erected by Lviv's Jews in 199*, without financial assistance from foreigners. A few private plaques along the sides were purchased by survivors to commemorate their murdered families. The ghetto extended two long blocks northward and about 1.* km eastward from here. There were about * square meters of enclosed living space per person. Aside from this monument, and before it was established, there was nothing to remember the history of this site, either. Some people say that the second Holocaust was the forgetting of the first.

Going back on 700 Years Lvov street to the outlying end of the tree-shaded open square across the street from the Hotel Lviv (a prefab concrete Soviet-era building), you will find the yellow-stucco building of the Sholem Aleichem society just off the northeastern corner of the square (on your left if you are going towards the city center). This is the vibrant center of contemporary Jewish life in Lviv, with its own library, kindergarten with a couple dozen youngsters, and Jewish social services. If you strike up a conversation with one of the people standing around outside or in (just ask something about Lviv's Jewish heritage; if they don't speak your language, they'll find someone who does), you can probably get someone to show you some of the handful of monuments to the dozens of destroyed synagogues and smaller houses of worship (beit midrash?) nearby. By the way, there is no discernible concern about security here, in contrast to the heavily guarded Jewish institutions in Germany. I would guess that this is because the lack of knowledge about Jews in Lviv is so complete that aggressive antisemitism isn't a problem yet.

Or you can go up vul. Syanska and across vul. Bohdana Khmelnytskoho, you will find a green square with a plaque-bearing boulder on the north side. Set in 199*, it tells that a "temple"-a particularly lavish synagogue looked down upon by orthodox Jews-was destroyed here in July 1941. It does not tell that this happened immediately upon entry of the German army into the city, nor that it was destroyed during a service, killing most of the worshippers. This area was the core of Jewish Lvov, although synagogues dotted the city. Sharp eyes will find other such plaques at empty lots and on tree lined squares throughout this quarter.

A final station on the tour of Jewish Lvov would be the crumbling foundations of one of the older* synagogues, not far from the Rynok. From the Rynok go east two blocks on vul. Ruska to the square with the Fedorov statue and turn right (southward), then right again. You will enter a small cobblestone street that bends around to the left along the inside of a preserved section of the medieval city wall (housing the museum of old arms, by the way). Go down the street and take the first right. About one block down there is a vacant lot on the right. At the back you'll find a plaque (erected 199*) commemorating the 192* synagogue. You can descend and climb among the rubble. When I was there in 1999 there was a swastika among the graffiti-probably more of an ignorant prank than a sign of serious antisemitism, but disheartening nonetheless.

Notes for Lonely Planet guidebook:

On p. 994, col. 2 top, changed the confusing sentence "which was nearly blown up by an undetonated bomb" to: "escaped destruction when a bomb set by the departing Germans did not detonate. Lviv citizens claim that it is the third most beautiful opera house in the world, after St. Petersburg and Odessa.

On p. 995, column 2, near top, where "a small café serving coffee and tea is in one corner" is mentioned, you might add that it is a favorite hangout for local artists and actors, who have no compunctions about striking up conversations with Westerners. The Arabian coffee (with cardamom) and tea are favorite specialties available only there.

On p. 997, col. 2, end of paragraph at top about the Museum of Old Arms, you might add mention of the nearby ruins of a synagogue (described at the end of my "tour of Jewish Lviv").

On p. 1000, col. 1 near top, you might add the sentence at the end of the paragraph on Pototsky Palace that a visit on a Saturday morning, the traditional wedding day, is a mind-boggling experience. Camera-wielding strangers are welcome to enter the fray of wedding parties lining up in the courtyard and various anterooms waiting for nuptials to be performed in the rooms on the far right. The bridesmaids sport dresses that make Hollywood parties look tame.

For the sweet tooth's in Lviv there are two places worth visiting, both on or near Prospekt Shevchenka. Right behind the Zhorzh is the main retail outlet of Svitoosh, Lviv's major candy factory and one of the few industries to weather the economic reforms relatively unscathed. (Another, smaller store is opposite the Rynok on the south side.) You can pick up boxes of chocolates and all kinds of loose goodies at bargain prices. We theorized that the popular "bird's milk" filling (you can spot the picture of a canary on the yellow box) might be popular for the docility of the small children and men.

For the second stop on the sweet-lovers tour, take the third street off of the middle of Prospekt Shevchenka behind the Zhorzh Hotel, one block before the Hrushevsky monument, namely the recently renamed vul. Dudayeva (after the Tchechen rebel leader, hated by the Soviets but glorified by Ukrainian nationalists). On the right hand side about midway down the short street is the retail outlet of Lviv's only but very large cake bakery. It is very unpretentious, but you can buy slices of the delicious cakes in the display which are weighed and sold by the gram. Enjoy them with a clientele of local teens in the smoke- and alcohol-free booths. If you happen to be invited somewhere, bringing a whole cake or a bag of candies would be an appreciated gesture and wouldn't break your pocketbook.

If you're wondering where the Ukrainian women get those dynamite dresses they wear around town, you won't want to miss a trip to the new South Market. Take private bus #70 from the square at Knyazya Romana just around the corner eastwards from the Zhorzh past the south end of Svobody, to its terminal stop, which is the market. You'll find rows and rows of boutique-like booths with all kinds of clothing, leather goods, toys, hardware and just about anything a body could want. The dress shops have all kinds of ingenious fold-out or walk-behind improvised dressing rooms. The skimpy party and evening dresses worn by the Ukrainian women for everyday occasions started at 45H (about $10) in 1999.

A couple of recommendations for eating: on p. 1001, col. 1, delete the second floor Restoran Lyux on Kopernika around the corner from the Zhorzh--it's really not a restaurant catering to individuals. Instead, the Stefanya on the east side of Svobody, just south of Katedralna, has a nice selection of local dishes, with translations on the menu, even if the waiters and waitresses don't speak English.

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