Lviv Volunteer Center Returns to New Jewish Cemetery

Clearing the open area in the cemetery

Clearing the open area in the cemetery. Photo © 2018 Marla Raucher Osborn.

A crew of four volunteers from Sasha Nazar’s Lviv Volunteer Center joined us in Rohatyn yesterday at the new Jewish cemetery to do some much-needed clearing and cutting of waist-high wild vegetation. The work at the site began a little after 10:00 am and lasted seven hours. In addition to cutting back new growth, and clearing a corner of the cemetery that had not been reached when we worked there together last summer, the day-long project also gave us an opportunity to test out new power and hand tools we recently purchased for use next month at Rohatyn’s old Jewish cemetery. We are grateful for the donations from many individuals and from The Matzevah Foundation in support of ongoing tool purchases and next month’s project.

Marla and Ivan Yurchenko with some of the library staff

Marla and Ivan Yurchenko with some of the library staff. Photo © 2018 Marla Raucher Osborn.

In the late morning, we were joined by Ivan Yurchenko, a friend, author, and activist from nearby Halych. Ivan arrived with copies of his book (now in Ukrainian and Hebrew, and soon in English) on the Halych Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery, which documents the surviving Jewish headstones and grave covers. Ivan donated one copy to Rohatyn Jewish Heritage, and the other to Rohatyn’s Public Library. Thank you, Ivan! Ivan is one of several Ukrainians we have met in western Ukraine / eastern Galicia who are working to recover Jewish memory and document prewar Jewish life. He met us in Rohatyn last month to attend the remembrance event of the 75th anniversary of the final liquidation of the Rohatyn Jewish ghetto.

Although the day’s temperature and humidity were quite high and the work physically demanding, it was (as always) enjoyable to work side-by-side again with the LVC’s energetic and dedicated team, several of whom we joined earlier this month in Lviv pulling nearly 100 Jewish headstones out of a residential road not far from our apartment.

Last year the LVC came twice to Rohatyn to help clear the new Jewish cemetery in preparation for the professional mass grave survey work we had commissioned. All of the LVC volunteers who worked in Rohatyn yesterday had been part of last year’s effort as well.

The crew at work

The crew at work. Left to right: Slava, Marla, Sasha, Danylo, Ivan, Vasyl, Jay. Photos © 2018 Marla Raucher Osborn and Jay Osborn.

The LVC is a civic arm of All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation “Hesed-Arieh” and both are engaged in activities in Lviv and the Lviv Oblast serving the Jewish community’s needs, training young people to become activists, and preserving heritage through civic projects, roundtables , and work camps. We are grateful for their continued support, and look forward to joining the LVC in a few weeks in Stryi, Drohobych, and Boryslav, where we will be working with them clearing at Jewish cemeteries, synagogues, and wartime Jewish mass graves.

Typical scenes of the activity in the cemetery

Typical scenes of the activity in the cemetery. Photos © 2018 Marla Raucher Osborn and Jay Osborn.

The crew at day's end

The crew at day’s end. Photo © 2018 Jay Osborn.

We are very pleased with the effort and the results from this strong crew: together we were able to clear roughly half of Rohatyn’s new Jewish cemetery of wild vegetation, completely clear and clean the southeast corner of the cemetery of deadwood and tangled thorn bushes, and get familiar with many of the tools we have purchased so far for the late-August project. We offer our sincere thanks for the leadership and very hard work of Sasha, Slava, Danylo, Ivan, and Vasyl, and for their continued friendship and support on our projects.

Here are before and after panorama images of the day’s work:

The new cemetery as it appeared before the start of work

The new cemetery as it appeared before the start of work. Image © 2018 Jay Osborn.

The new cemetery near the end of the day

The new cemetery near the end of the day. Image © 2018 Jay Osborn.