(JHE) — Work is under way to restore the long-abandoned synagogue in Vil’khivtsi, in western Ukraine near the border with Romania and Hungary, and turn it into a Jewish heritage museum and Holocaust memorial.
Preservationists working on the building estimate that it dates from the the early 18th century, around 1705, which would make it the oldest surviving synagogue in the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine.
Most of the interior is in devastated condition, but it conserves delicate polychrome frescos on the ceiling of the sanctuary, depicting olive branches and the star of David as well as other decorative elements.
Work on the building began late last year and is being supervised and carried out, in cooperation with the Vilkhivtsi local government, by Heritage Springs Inc., a US tax-exempt nonprofit established in 2020 by the descendants of the Jews from Vilkhivtsi (known in Hungarian as Irhócz) and heritage preservation advocates.
By the end of last year the roof had been replaced, as a first step in the project.
“When my husband and I came to Vil’khivtsi in late September 2020, the roof was on the verge of collapse,” project leader Mariia Khorun, a lawyer trained in both the US and Ukraine and Heritage Springs board trustee, told JHE in December.
The wooden support structures that held the roof were rotten and needed replacement. Thankfully, we were able to launch the roof renovation in October, and as of today 400 sq.m. of roof along with the support structures is replaced. It’s quite amazing that we were able to complete the roof before the first snow in Vil’khivtsi! Our next steps are installing gutters, windows, and repairing the exterior walls.
See a video (with English over-dubbing) about the project. In it, Emilia Krychfalushiy from the Vil’khivtsi local government and Mariia Khorun discuss the synagogue restoration process.
Khorun told JHE that Heritage Springs also is involved with a Jewish cemetery preservation project at Sokyrnytsya, in Khust district of Zakarpattia, about 40 km to the east. (See survey information about the cemetery on the ESJF web site.)