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Our Glukhov Visit Diary

Friday April 25, 1995
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.

#1...Jewish Cemetery in Glukhov...1995 We have photographed all of the tombstones in the old Jewish cemetery, and have translated the readable inscriptions.
#2...A view of the Zavelsky Candy Factory and house that is inhabited by a private family today....photo 1995
#3...Old Jewish cemetery in Glukhov and building behind which was a military base during WWII.....Photo 1995
#4...Site where Fishkin candy factory (competitive to the Zavelsky candy factory,) once stood...photo 1995
#5...Typical street in Glukhov...1995
#6...View of Glukhov from the tower...1995
#7...Our hotel in Glukhov...1995
#8...Our completed memorial in the forest at Borak. It was dedicated in April 1996 with the help of the vice-mayor and a few of the Jewish families living in the Glukhov area.