Friday April 25,
Now off to Glukhov. We arrived a bit later than expected and
the vice-mayor had gone home. He returned immediately to meet
with us. Glukhov is a good size town with 39,000 people. There
are about 300 Jewish families living in the neighboring villages.
The vice-mayor, Dimitri Savitski, arrived and I can only describe
him as young, bubbly, talkative and well informed on general
and Jewish history. He had done some checking into the name
Zavelsky and told us that the last Zavelsky, who had a fifteen-year
old son, left Glukhov in 1947. They first went to Shostka,
which is about twenty miles from Glukhov, and then to Nezhin.
We have not seen any documentation on this.
We drove first to the Jewish Cemetery. There were about 75
tombstones of Jewish people who died after the war and they
are of course in fairly good condition. There were also twenty
or so remnants of old Jewish tombstones with Hebrew writing
that I could read. The stones are almost impossible to read
as they are in pieces. There is about an acre of land with
grass that once used to be part of the Jewish cemetery. I
am certain our Zavelsky ancestors were buried here. Today
it appears that the goats keep the lawn mowed.
Glukhov celebrated it's one thousand year anniversary in 1993.
Dimitri said that Jewish people inhabited the town from about
1672. They had made up 25 percent of the population. Before
W.W.II, there were about 500 Jewish families. They were involved
in many trades but most specifically gold jewelry and leather,
besides two candy factories. One belonged to the Zavelsky's
and one to a family named Fishkin.
Behind the cemetery is a military base that during the war
was a concentration camp. Before that it was part of the Jewish
cemetery. It was from this spot that Dimitri began unfolding
the most interesting and emotional story of our trip.
In the forest in Borak, close to Glukhov there is a beautiful
monument to the residents of Glukhov who were killed in W.W.II.
Eight Hundred people had been taken to this spot and shot.
However, a few years ago, there was a Holocaust survivor who
told Dimitri that Jewish and Russian people were also killed
at the concentration camp behind the cemetery. Incredibly,
they started to dig there and found the skeletons. A team
was brought in from Odessa of Jewish specialists and they
excavated the site. They found the bodies of hundreds of people,
many in a kneeling position with their hands behind their
heads. They found women, babies, children and old people.
They found pieces of yarmulkes and pieces of papers with the
names of next of kin. Dimitri tried to follow up with these
addresses and I believe found some people. This excavation
took 120 people one month. Many workers were volunteers from
Glukhov. A second monument was then built to those killed
at the concentration camp.
On October 1, 1994, when the new monument was ready, the remains
of the hundreds of Glukhov residents were put into coffins
and moved from the concentration camp site to the site of
the two monuments in the Borak forest. We saw the video of
this whole project from start to finish that Dimitri made.
This video belongs in the Holocaust Museum. It is heartbreaking
to see not only the produced skeletons, but the shoes that
remained in tact besides all the other remnants of clothing
etc. To see the pomp and circumstance given to these remains
as the town moved them to a new resting place was unbelievable.
It restores your faith in people to find a person and a town
that cared enough to pay a special tribute to those killed
by the Nazi's. It is especially meaningful for me to find
this is my Zavelsky town. Looking at these skeletons laid
out in a row on the video, and knowing our relatives where
among them is a very moving experience. Even if there were
no relatives of ours among them, but fellow Jews, one must
be proud of this man and this town.
We next visited a monument in the main square that with all
the names inscribed of the soldiers from Glukhov lost in the
war. There were no Zavelsky's there, but many other Jewish
soldiers were listed and I have this list. We drove through
the many streets and the town looks very much as it did in
the late 1800's. The churches still exist, but the two Synagogues
were destroyed. The houses are close together and unfortunately
there is a grey dirty look about everything. This seems typical
of what we saw in just about every city except for the village
of Sosnitsa that was a bit more cheerful looking.
We made another stop at a tower right off the square, and
Alan, Vitaly, Slava and Dimitri walked up to the top. I stayed
down as the car watcher. Vitaly took wonderful panorama shots
of Glukhov, but Alan said it was just awful up there. There
were pigeons caught in the tower who were banging their heads
against the windows to get out. I think I was smart to stay
below. While I was sitting in the car, the police came over
to me and I supposed tried to ask what I was doing there.
I pointed to the top of the tower and they must have gotten
my message as they walked away.
Next came the big question of where we would sleep. We drove
with Dimitri to what was called a "private" hotel
and were shown two adjoining "Suites." This is a
funny word to use for these rooms but we each actually had
a living room and a bedroom. We had no choice but to stay
in this hotel although the rooms were indescribable. Again,
thank God for Miriam's sheets and our Lysol Spray. Old torn
furniture, moldy and filthy. I have never seen a bathroom
like this in my life. When we came in, they had five people
cleaning the rooms. However, they must have had very poor
eyesight as I couldn't figure out what they cleaned. At least
we can now say we slept in Glukhov.
Dimitri had arranged a dinner for us at this same hotel. He
ate with us and I can't believe how I got any of the food
down. What we saw and heard today was fascinating and spellbinding,
but the combination of seeing the remains of people on the
video and then having dinner was just too much. This was a
day we would never forget. At the memorial in Borak, there
is a plaque written in Russian about the Jewish people. We
are going to have a plaque made for the memorial in Borak
which will be in Hebrew and English that will read as follows:
In memory of the Jewish people of
Glukhov who perished during the Second World War. May they
rest in peace. Given by Alan & Marjorie Goldberg in memory
of her grandfather Zalman Zavelsky, born Glukhov, 1871, and
all members of the Zavelsky family of Glukhov.
This project is in the works and we look
forward to it being completed. Dimitri was thrilled with what
we are doing and was quickly on the telephone to the architect
who designed the memorials. Dimitri had insisted the hotel
prepare breakfast for us before we left. We sat down to it
at 8:AM and left by 8:30AM. It was fascinating and wonderful
in Glukhov, and very thrilling for me to be in the town where
my grandfather was born.