(JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber recently visited Jewish heritage sites in more than 10 towns near Lviv in western Ukraine to observe conditions and note changes.)
We didn’t know it at the time, but our visit to the town of Stryi, south of Lviv, came just days after the second volunteer action of the summer cut back grass and weeds at the ruined synagogue. We could clearly appreciate the results in the open space in front of the building.
The volunteers included young people from the Youth Nationalist Congress with the assistance Stryi City Council member Petro Kuritnyk.
It was a follow-up to a clean-up action there in June, when volunteers from the Lviv Volunteer Center spent five hours (or more) clearing the rampant trees and other vegetation inside and around the ruined building. They were also assisted then by Kuritnyk.
You can see a report from the first clean-up, with many pictures, at the group’s Facebook page — click HERE. And also view this video from the extensive work carried out in June click HERE if the video doesn’t show correctly):
These actions are very positive, representing as they do a collaboration between the city and the Jewish community — the Lviv Volunteer Center, which coordinates the activity of volunteers from the Lviv Jewish community.
However, as we walked around the town, we noted that what could be used now is informational signage — even the temporary markers with QR code that we saw in Brody.
The Stryi synagogue is a massive ruin — a city landmark by now. It bears a small plaque that denotes it as a synagogue, but there is no further information provided as to what this means, why it stands there as a ruin, etc.
Likewise, it is very positive that there is a monument at the site of the old Jewish cemetery nearby — now built over by a housing development. But, placed by an orthodox Jewish group that memorializes cemeteries and other sites, it bears only one line in Ukrainian — and thus aimed at local people — denoting the place as a Jewish burial ground (from 1712).
About 12,000 Jews lived in Stryi before World War II, making up more than a third of the local population. You can still see one (maybe more) homes where the place where the mezuzah was attached to the doorpost is still visible:
Most Jews from Stryi were deported and murdered at the Belzec death camp. But at least 1,200 were shot dead in the Holobotow forest, about five km from town, in November 1941. A memorial stone was placed there in 2001 at the initiative of a former Stryi resident, Prof. Adam Zielinski — the stone was covered and the site was landscaped and improved in 2006.
The site, as can be imagined, is isolated and desolate; signposting from the street and clear informational signage could help the rare visitor learn the history and significance of the place. We were also a little puzzled by a second monument which has been placed near the original one, apparently by a Holocaust memorial center. It is in the shape of a cross, with a Star of David etched on it. Originally it had a plaque in Hebrew as well as Ukrainian, but we found that broken and could only see its fragments.
If anyone has information about this memorial — please let us know!