Jewish Observer
COMMUNITIES
12/15
October 2001
5762 Kheshvan

TWO DAYS ON FOUR WHEELS. (II)
BOLESLAV KAPULKIN
Main Print

Continuation. See No 11 (14)

The cemetery in Sadigora is a splendor of desolation. A huge territory is divided into three parts: a narrow stripe along the road is lined with trees, it is cool there and green grass hides the traces of "picnics" organized by local inhabitants at its side. A big territory inside the cemetery represents a strip of land burnt by the sun and trampled out by the locals who had made the path through it to the adjacent buildings (judging by the sound and smell coming out, one of them is sure to be a cow-shed). The middle part of the cemetery is under low yellow grass, and one can recognize the graves only while treading about land irregularities and hummocks. The third strip located on the opposite side represents preserved gravestones - matsevs, five-six rows of vertical stones covered by weeds of a man's height. The last burials date back as far as 1938, that is prior to the Soviet power. It is of interest that the names on these stones, in addition to Jewish texts, are already in German (obviously, not everybody at that time could understand the square Jewish script).

At the end of the cemetery there is an ohel of the Ruzhin Rebe. Rabbi Isroel lead a really king's life, and many Jews saw him as a "king of Israel" which was the cause for his being persecuted by the Russian tsar who couldn't stand any rivals. His palace, his coach and four horses, his orchestra, golden skull-cap and golden boots - everything was kingly. But, as the Hasids assured, the boots had no soles and Rebe walked bare-footed, though, outwardly, it was kingly. The grave of the Ruzhin Rebe is also kingly. Though, the mentioning of the boots without soles is right to the place here. For the gravestone is not decorated with paintings and engravings, has no marble or gilt. It is a clod of cement. But it is a clod. A huge one. A beautiful one (if it is possible to say so about a clod at all).

Unlike many other gravestones we had seen, this one is much taller than the people around it and, you, brought up in a republican spirit, start to realize "what tsar is like".

Leaving Sadigora we found the former palace of the Sadigora tsadiks. It used to be a wonderful estate called "Golden stream".

At present the local "Selkhoztechnika" repairs tractors there. Rather, it 'repaired' them because even tractors cannot bear it. A wonderful facade in the pseudo-Mauritanian style is almost not seen because of the weeds, some windows are broken... The roof of the hall (judging by the bricked hole for aron-koidesh, it was a chapel) has collapsed in many places, part of the walls was demolished, and the floor is thickly littered. But there is nobody to restore it. The Chernovtsy and Sadigora Jews (if they still exist) are far from royal splendor, and the Sadigora Hasids do not need the "Golden stream" because they live everywhere but not in Sadigora...

We were heading farther westwards to the banks of the White Cheremosh, to a glorious town of Vizhnitsa. In his book "Scattered Sparks" Ely Visel dedicated a big chapter to the Vizhnitsa Hasids. ("I am a grandson of Dodi-Feig, Vizhnitsa Hasid"). His childhood passed here, in these places. Vizhnitsa is located on the very border of the Chernovtsy region. You just cross the bridge and find yourself in the Ivano-Frankovsk region. This is yet ahead of us, but first - Vizhnitsa. This was a tiny town with no people in the street because of Sunday and the third day of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence.

The building of the Vizhnitsa yeshiva was turned into a butter factory and the house of the Vizhnitsa tsadiks became the military registration and enlistment office... The cemetery is located in the village of Chernoguzy bordering on Vizhnitsa.

The Jewish cemetery is encircled by dwelling houses. This is the reason why the cemetery is in a rather decent condition (there is a fence around it), though, it has been active until recently. The entrance is from the left side. It leads to the ohel of the Vizhnitsa tsadiks. Unlike other ohels we have seen before this one has no main walls. A two-layer roof and walls represent a twig grating. A gray concrete rectangular with the names of the people buried here stands over the graves. The ohel is often attended which is proved by a huge number of candle-ends near the grave and a quiet indifference of local inhabitants to the arriving Jews. When you are at the entrance gate the cemetery seems tiny, but turning to the right from the ohel you discover a real size of the beit-kvorot.

The cemetery is huge, the last burials were made in 1992(!). Unlike the Sadigora one, the Chernoguzy (or Vizhnitsa) cemetery is plunged in greenery. Not in weeds, but namely in greenery. After the burnt August grass in Odessa, the green one looks strange but pleasant...

We are finally in Kosov. This name is now famous around the world but, unlike the Balkan Kosovo, the Ukrainian Kosov is quiet and cosy.

If Vizhnitsa is located at the foot of the mountains, then Kosov is already in the Carpathian Mountains. It is not far from here to Yaremcha, Vorokhta, Verkhovina, Yablunitsky crossing... In general, in these places (in Kosov and in neighboring Kuty) Baal Shem-Tov had been living for a long time, and this fact can be easily used in tourist purposes. This is not because crowds of Jews eager to follow the way of Rabbi Isroel would rush here. No, Baal Shem-Tov liked the nature, and if he had decided on a place to reside in, the nature there appeared unusually beautiful. Like most mountain towns, Kosov stretches along a river valley, and the mountains rise some there hundred meters away from the bank. Kosov is a small and cosy town; there are unlikely more than three dozens of narrow streets in it, the majority of which are two-three blocks long. The architecture is in a Hutsul style with pointed roof pitches, laced small balconies and flowers on the window-sills. There are almost no Jews left in the town, but the cemetery has been preserved. The cemetery, located in the suburb (the town suburb is already in the mountains), crawls upwards so steeply that you have to demonstrate miracles of adroitness balancing on its slippery paths. It is not so simple to notice the cemetery from the distance as it is almost completely hidden in greenery yet thicker than in Chernoguzy, but ohels are seen well. This is not a misprint - namely ohels; unlike others, the Kosov tsadiks are buried in different parts of the cemetery, so several tents were to be erected.

To be continued...
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