I am excited to tell you that we have now completed our preliminary planning for the Society’s first official trip to Gvardeskoye (Felshtin), Ukraine this coming May.
Our preliminary schedule is as follows:
Sunday May 16: We arrive separately in L’viv where we will have accommodations at an excellent hotel. The link for L’viv is www.lvov.us/
L’viv (formerly named Lemberg and Lvov) is one of the gems of Eastern Europe. Developed while it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, architecturally it is a small Vienna. L’viv was home to a large Jewish population for centuries and, after the pogrom, many of our ancestors fled there to regroup and to reorganize their lives. One synagogue, built in the 1920s, is fully functioning today and is completing a full restoration of its beautiful and unique sanctuary.
Monday May 17: AM – We travel to Khmelnitsky (formerly Proskurov) where we will stay 2 nights at a local hotel. The link for Khmelnitsky is http://ukrainetrek.com/Khmelnitsky_city.shtml
PM – tour Khmelnitsky
Only 14 miles from Gvardeskoye, Khmelnitsky is a small city whose residents interact closely with those of Gvardeskoye. In contrast to Gvardeskoye, a small Jewish population remains. The synagogue has recently been restored and we will meet with local Jewish residents. (See: http://www.fjc.ru/news/newsArticle.asp?AID=1013468 )
Tuesday May 18: AM – We tour Khmelnitsky. 11AM – group lunch
Noon – We ride to Gvardeskoye for touring; then return to Khmelnitsky for dinner.
While only a few tombstones remain in the Jewish graveyard in silent testimony to the Jews of Felshtin, the ghosts of the town’s Jewish past are all over the town. We will tour the former Felshtin and see where our ancestors worked and lived.
Wednesday May 19: We return to Gvardeskoye for the special program.
We will dedicate our new monument to our ancestors which was recently erected at the last of the Jewish graveyards. This will be followed by the first formal meeting between Christian residents of Gvardeskoye and descendants of the Felshtin Jews. We will meet in friendship and hope to share with one another some of what we have learned from our ancestors about the life of the town before the total destruction of the Jewish community – initiated by the Cossacks in 1918 and completed by the Nazis during WW II.
Late PM – We return to L’viv in time for dinner.
Thursday May 20: We tour L’viv.
Friday May 21: We depart separately from L’viv.
We are particularly pleased to have been able to arrange for Alex Dunai of L’viv to act as our guide. For many years, Alex has devoted himself full-time to working exclusively with Jewish families, both as a researcher of family histories and as a guide. He is considered by many to be the region’s leading tour guide for Jewish groups.
We are not travelling to Ukraine as a group, so if you wish to attend, you will need to make your own arrangements to and from L’viv. For our Ukraine adventure, Alex will hire a suitable vehicle and driver. His charges will be shared equally among the attendees.
Fortunately, the American dollar goes a long way in Ukraine, so you can expect your expenses there to be surprisingly low. (We can be more specific once we finalize the arrangements.)
We would like as many of the members of the Society to join us as possible. At this time 7 or 8 people are committed to going; we hope that more of you will join us for what promises to be a very moving and unforgettable experience. If you are considering joining us, please contact me immediately so we can include you in our planning.
There is a possibility of making a film of the experience which, at the least, we would be able to share on our web site. If you, or anyone you know, could help with this project, please call me or drop me an email.
This is an important, historic step for our group as well as all survivors and their families. Even if you cannot attend, please share your thoughts with me to help us develop the program for the monument dedication and community meeting.
In friendship and with good wishes,
Alan Bernstein, President