August 2009 Mission

To mark the occasion of the completion of the cemetery wall and in recognition of the fact that two of the Survivors from Bolechow (Shlomo and Josef Adler) were available to join the trip to share their experiences, BJHS coordinated a “mission” to Bolechow in August 2009. Some 30 individuals, roughly half from the United States and half from Israel (joined by two from France and one from Germany) shared a memorable and moving journey.

The visit to Bolechow included three separate ceremonies: dedicating the cemetery wall, recalling the horrors that 800 Jews endured in the DKA house, and conducting a service at the mass grave in the Taniava forest, where nearly 1000 Jews were shot by the Nazis and now are interred.

Many of the travelers found family homes (or the sites where their families’ homes had once stood) and gravestones of ancestors. We concluded the Bolechow portion of the trip with a banquet-style dinner at a local restaurant, concluded with the group singing HaTikva (with many tears shed as each person recalled those who lived and perished in the town).

We are greatly indebted to Alexander Dunai and his assistants (his wife and son and his colleague Svitlana Kovalyk) for their wonderful help in arranging the trip and making it a memorable experience for all – and for their friendship and kindness in all they did.

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A Poem Written and Delivered during BJHS Trip

August 2009

Unending Journey: Galicia, 2009
By Amiel Shotz

1.
On Our way to the Dedication Ceremony.

In Bolechow, in Stryi, in Drohobycz,
The streets, the railway tracks, the homes
With their standard corrugated roofs,
All go about their business, stolid
Unconcerned, incurious,
Under the steel blue sky.

The locals view our clumsy bus,
Warily expectant--serve us our meal
Blankly polite and distant, while
The deputy mayor and the local priest
Welcome us in fulsome tones,
Talking of the brotherhood of man.

2.
Walking from the Mass Grave
Tanyava Forest, Ukraine

The grass grows tall, the rutted track
Is muddy from the recent rain.
A tiny frog hops nervously
Around the stalks. The swaying trees
Scatter rain drops coolly on
Our pounding heads. The air smells sweet.

Quietly we talk, amused
A trifle by the Rabbi’s
Long oration, while, back there
In the clearing, neatly framed,
Under the untidy greyish sod,
A thousand spirits nod in sympathy.

It has taken them this long to dim
The horror of their final days.
It has taken me this long to feel
The rifle butts, the tearing bullets,
The falling into eternity,
To feel the blood behind my eyes.

3.
Statistics

Of the Jews who worked the shops,
The lumber yard, the tannery,
The barrel works, the doctors, lawyers,
Teachers, Rabbis, and the poor,
Who lived “down there, across from the church,
In desperate conditions,” ninety-
Eight point six percent were killed.

Of eleven thousand in Stryi—more
Than half the residents, a whole
Three hundred made it out, in holes
In the ground, behind false walls,
In niches thirty inches wide,
In carefully hidden forest caves,
Built for six, holding sixteen.

4.
Ruined Cemetery. Rodzol
Over the lush grass, green as innocence,
Among the few fragmented stones,
The waddling geese honk contentedly
The sheep crop lazily.
Such peace, obtained at such a cost.

5.
Another World

In Glasgow (Scotland) I grew up
“during the war,” but never knowing
My father’s pain when he thought about
His folk, back there in Estonia.
In time, he heard how they had died,
Hung from the windows of their house
By neighbors. Until then, he
Kept his fears from us—the worst
I suffered was the rationing,
Two ounces this, four ounces that a week.

But we were clothed and fed and went
To school, and played and laughed and lived,
While ”over there,” the S.S. men
Crammed hundreds in a hall: “Here comes
Your dinner!” Then, a hail of bullets.

And now, the houses and the trees,
The grass, the same Hungarian plums,
The street down which they trudged their way,
The shivering platform where they stood,
The tracks that carried them away,
Remain, essentially the same,
Witnesses to what had been,
Silent and unmoved and yet,
Screaming to the ends of heaven,
Mute, yet shouting “Here we stand
To tell the world of that lost other world.”