It was almost exactly a year ago that we made our first of a dozen visits to Rohatyn in 2011, the prewar home of my paternal grandmother and her large extended family. On that first visit, we were introduced to the 77-year-old Ukrainian school teacher named Mr. Vorobets who was also the town’s recognized expert on local and prewar history and families: Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish. It was he who directed our attention to the continued presence of the Jewish gravestones, the hundreds if not thousands still existing in town today—some visible, some not—in walls and foundations, on riverbanks and landings, under gardens and asphalt. For more than 20 years, and long before our arrival, Mr. Vorobets had been gathering information whenever these stones and fragments were found by locals and making arrangements to have them moved to the former “new” Jewish cemetery at the north end of town. Now we, too, were part of that process.
In the multinational Austrian army there were, of course, Jewish soldiers. They fought on all fronts of the First World War and were killed with their comrades in arms of other nationalities and regions; but if identified as Jews they were buried separately. All other soldiers, regardless of religion, were buried in common cemeteries or common graves, according to a law derived from Emperor Joseph’s 1784 regulations on burying the dead. Of the dead in all 400 cemeteries, Jews make up 3.72%, which is close to the percentage of Jews in the Austrian army—though among the Jews buried were also some Jewish soldiers from the Russian army. It is also the case, however, that all unidentified corpses were buried in non-Jewish graves, so a number of Jewish dead were buried in common graves at non-Jewish cemeteries.
If you think that you might have family from Żurów or family that married someone from Żurów, you could learn the house and parcel numbers that belonged to your family; chart who their neighbors were; trace inheritance patterns of how land was handed down through generations; find out how much your ancestors paid in tax and what kinds of buildings they had on their land. I know from records I’ve obtained that my Haber family lived in house #84. I’m hoping to find other surnames in neighboring houses that connect to my family and will help me piece together my great-grandfather’s siblings and cousins. The same could come true for your family from Żurów.
The Rohatyn Shtetl Research Group has posted an interactive 1846 cadastral map of Rohatyn with house numbers, Jewish buildings, and community structures at http://www.rsrg.org/rohatyn/map/hnl/zzz_rhlz7.html.
Clean-up and restoration of the Jewish cemetery in Jodłowa (Podkarpackie province of Poland, between Tarnów and Jasło) has begun, under the direction of the Foundation FPKT and with the participation of the Jodłowa civil authorities. In August 2012, it appeared that half or more of the cemetery had been cleared of weeds, leaves, and other debris, exposing 100 or so matzevot, many substantially intact. Inscriptions that could be seen were generally in quite good condition.
In July 2008, a group of nineteen French Jews took a tour to Eastern Galicia and Bukovina, provided by a Jewish cultural organization, Valiske, and directed by an outstanding guide, Andre Kosmicki. We, part of that group, were in search of our roots, looking for the traces of our parents’ stories about the region and for tombstones of relatives. Having read Father Patrick Desbois’s reports on mass executions in Ukraine – Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews – we thought we knew what to expect.
On September 1, 1939 there were about 3.5 million Jews in Poland, approximately ten percent of the country’s population. Ten percent of this figure lived in the Polish capital of Warsaw, making it the second largest Jewish city in the world after New York. Poland was Europe’s most important center of Jewish religious, cultural and intellectual life with 350 Jewish newspapers, 1700 periodicals, hundreds of synagogues, theatres, sport clubs, political parties, schools of Jewish education, yeshivot and the YIVO Institute, then also in Poland.
The Kolbuszowa Region Research Group (KRRG) includes the following Administrative Districts (AD): Kolbuszowa, Lancut, Mielec, Nisko, Pilzno, Ropczyce, Rzeszów, Strzyzów, and Tarnobrzeg. The Suchostaw Region Research Group (SRRG) includes the following AD: Borszczow, Buczacz, Czortkow, Husiatyn, Skalat, Tarnopol, Trembowla, Zbaraz, and Zaleszczyki.
In 1978, the Skala Benevolent Society (SBS) published a yizkor book called Skala. The book was written by the shtetl’s former Jewish residents who either had survived the Holocaust or had been born in Skala and previously had emigrated. Its purpose was to honor Skala’s Jewish community, which had been annihilated by the Nazis and their allies. Most of the contributors to the original book were the survivors themselves, who felt a deep inner compulsion and moral obligation to those who perished, to tell the story of Jewish Skala and to share with their children and future generations their memories of suffering, struggle, and loss. The yizkor book was written primarily in Yiddish and Hebrew and was largely inaccessible to many modern Skala researchers, most of whose families came from this shtetl. Skala on the River Zbrucz, a translation of the entire yizkor book into English, has now been published by the Skala Research Group (whose members are investigating their roots in Skala) and the SBS.
Cadastral Maps and Landowner Records — Out of some 50 people the Coordinator did surname/given name searches for, eight KRG members/non-members requested full reports and made donations to the Gesher Galicia Cadastral Map Project in the name of Kolomea. Our account there now is about $800. Surname/Given Name Searches — Two new search requests have been completed since last report. The door is always open for new requests to conduct surname searches and report given names found.
More articles of this type from The Galitzianer will be added soon.