This article appeared in The Galitzianer, (August, 2002) ·

Book Review: ‘Nach Galizien’, by Martin Pollack

by Edward Goldstein

This book is available only in German (Nach Galizien) and Polish (Po Galicji). If you read either of these languages, I suggest you do as I do and ask your local library to obtain it for you via their Inter-Library Loan system. My German is somewhat rusty, as you will no doubt be able to deduce from the quality of the translations that follow, but the effort was well worth it for me. I did wish, how- ever, that the author had included an index.

The full title of the book is To Galicia: Of Chasidim, Huzules, Poles and Ruthenians: An imaginary journey through the vanished world of Eastern Galicia and Bukovina. (Ruthenians and Huzules are basically Ukrainians.) It describes an imagined trip, mainly by railroad, around the turn of the last century, from Tarnow to Lemberg (I’m using place names as they appear in the book) via Przemysl, Drohobycz, Stryj, Stanislau, Zabie, Kolomea, Czernowitz, Brody and places in between. A quick look at the map will show you that this is far from a linear journey, involving as it does various side trips.

For each waypoint, the author draws on contemporaneous accounts for lyrical and (sometimes) not so lyrical descriptions of the lives of Jews, Poles and Ukrainians. The overall impression is of “a rich land of poor people” (in the words of the title of another book by the same author). Among the poorest of these poor people are the majority of its Jewish population.

The following passage quoted in the book, excerpted from a description of an emigrant from Dobromil to the USA, puts it as follows:

Gewen is das schtetl, in a tol, arumgeringlt mit schene hojche grine berg, mit fruchtn un blumen gertner, a schmekende gute frische luft. Nor ejn sach hot gefelt: parnose.

(If your knowledge of Yiddish isn’t quite up to translating from a transcription into German, here is what this says: “There was a shtetl, in a valley, surrounded by beautiful high green mountains, with fruit and flower gardens, delicious good fresh air. Only one thing was missing: a way to make a living.”)

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