Other Projects

In addition to the intended long-term heritage and education projects, we have also taken on unanticipated issues with a heritage aspect, and there are current Jewish heritage issues in Rohatyn which are beyond the scope of our program. This page describes some of those ‘other projects’, which do not fit well into existing project categories.

In general these other projects have arisen due to the almost complete devastation of the Jewish community of Rohatyn during World War II, and the lack of Jewish survivors in Rohatyn since the war. Although it is sometimes shocking when traces of the lost community surface, we must be prepared to engage any such evidence with respect and care.

Burial of Discovered Human Remains [Completed]

The carefully-stacked bones

The carefully-stacked bones in the cellar. Photo © 2012 Jay Osborn.

In a May 2012 news item, we reported that the remains of 12 humans, both adults and children, had been discovered during renovation work under the Ukrainian Catholic church on the Rohatyn town square. We were advised of this find by Mr. Vorobets, who had been contacted by the church because church leaders believed the bones likely belonged to Jews from the wartime ghetto directly behind the church; a preliminary forensic examination suggested the bones could date from that period. As the only representatives of Rohatyn’s Jews returning to Rohatyn frequently, we were asked how the church should proceed with burial of the remains.

A closeup of the memorial stone

A closeup of the memorial stone. Photo © 2012 Alex Denysenko.

This question proved difficult for the Rohatyn Jewish descendants group to resolve, partly due to uncertainty about the religious affiliation of the deceased, and partly out of concern and respect for the different burial customs of the Catholic and Jewish faiths. More than a year passed without clear resolution, leaving the remains unburied.

Eventually we contacted Rabbi Kolesnik of Ivano-Frankivsk for advice, reported that discussion to Father Bihun of the Rohatyn Ukrainian Catholic church, and then stepped back to let the two religious leaders find a solution. In the end, the bones were buried together in the new Jewish cemetery, in a quiet service attended by representatives of both faiths, using a wooden casket built for the purpose by the church; it seemed to us a fitting and generous result.

Then in May 2015, a monument was raised over the grave to commemorate the unknown dead, and in gratitude to the religious leaders who brought the issue to a close. The monument expense was paid by a private donation separate from the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage program.

The Box of Jewish Papers [Completed]

We reported in June 2011 that the director of the Rohatyn internat (boarding school) had informed Mr. Vorobets of a surprising find during renovation work on the buildings of his school. The school complex includes a building which before World War II was a synagogue near the Ukrainian Catholic church, and another which was the Judenrat office during the war, at the edge of the wartime Jewish ghetto. During the summertime school renovation, workers had discovered a large number of paper scraps of all types, but all having some connection to the lost Jewish community of Rohatyn: letters, bills of sale, theater flyers, torah pieces, notes, and many other document fragments, in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Polish, and Russian. The scraps were gathered into a box; many were soiled, and quite a few were eaten by rodents, yet the value of the scraps as evidence of the Jewish community was obvious.

The box of Jewish paper scraps

Everyone was astonished at the contents of the box. Photos © 2011 Jay Osborn.

The question was what to do with the papers; the internat director invited us to suggest a suitable home for the papers. We photographed as many papers as we could, discussed the options after we left Rohatyn, and continued the discussion with the descendants’ group over the summer.

Mr. Yaremkiv with his students in the Hesed library

Mr. Yaremkiv with his students in the Hesed library. Photo © 2011 Jay Osborn.

When we returned to Ukraine in Autumn, we visited Rohatyn again in October and reviewed several options, giving a priority to ideas which would keep the papers in Ukraine near Rohatyn. The best solution for all was for the internat to donate the box of papers to the Hesed-Arieh Jewish social charity and museum in Lviv. We paid a visit to Hesed-Arieh a week later, where the charity director and their museum manager quickly agreed to our proposal, and outlined what they could do to clean, scan, translate, document, and display the papers. In a happy conclusion to the issue, two weeks after that agreement the Rohatyn internat director visited Hesed-Arieh to donate the papers, bringing eight of his young students on the trip as an educational encounter, as fascinating for them as it was for us.

When Hesed has completed its work to clean and document the papers, we will provide a link to the images and text here.

Synagogues in Rohatyn [Out of Scope]

Although we cannot now consider preservation of the few surviving Jewish religious buildings in Rohatyn as part of our program, we are concerned for the remaining building(s) which do not serve a useful purpose and are decaying. For now we are limited to a documentation effort for these witnesses to pre-war Jewish Rohatyn; see our synagogues project page for more information.