Local authorities in the western Ukrainian town of Husiatyn are grappling with what to do with hundreds of fragments of Jewish gravestones that recently came to light after being used for construction.
Journalist Dmitry Polyukhovich writes in the online news site Focus and in the online newspaper 24-my.info that the broken fragments, dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries, were identified in recent weeks in the village of Chubarivka, where they had been used to construct the barn of a collective farm. The remants of the barn were being demolished to make way for a new building.
The fragments are believed to come from the Jewish cemetery in nearby Husiatyn, which was devastated by the Nazis. Polyukhovich writes that all surviving matzevot were removed by the 1970s for use as building material. Apartments and other structures now cover the cemetery site.
“The primary task for today is to collect all the scattered gravestones. This must be done quickly, given that the location of the barn is planned a large building,” Polyukhovich quotes a local official as stating. As for what to do with the stones, he added, “The first thing that comes to mind is to build a memorial Wall on which they are preserved.”
Financial resources for such an undertaking are scarce, however, he reports.
Husiatyn is the site of a historic, fortress-style synagogue which today is abandoned and in deteriorating condition.
Damaged during and after World War II, the synagogue was rebuilt as a local museum in the early 1970s. It was vacated some years ago and has since stood empty, in seriously deteriorating condition.
In 2014, we reported that it was listed for rent on an official web site. The listing noted that it was an “architectural monument of national importance” and that maintaining it as such is a pre-condition for rental. Suggested use for the building is to “accommodate objects in the cultural and touristic sphere.”