You have taken away everything you could, only the memory is beyond your control …
On this first Sunday of September, when autumn had not yet come into its own, and the sun was shining bright in Lviv, there were held events in memory of the bloody tragedy that took place here exactly 75 years ago.
This tragedy became the point of no return in the history of our city, because not only a third of its population was killed, but a unique cultural component had disappeared, which was an integral part of that pre-war city. An entire epoch of several centuries was entirely wiped out and forgotten. Vandals reduced to ashes and ruins almost everything that reminded of Jews and Jewish culture in the city. But the memory survived, because it is beyond the control of vandals. And the city could not survive the tragedy. That Lviv-Lemberg disappeared with all its charm, amazing and unique national flavor, created at the time by different nations and cultures, including Jewish, and it won’t exist anymore. That very city that glorified Emanuel Schlechter in his song “Tylko we Lwowie”, asking: “Bo gdzie jest na świecie tak dobrze jak tu? Tylko we Lwowie!” (After all, where else in the world is as good as here? Only in Lviv!). The gap between “that” city and the modern city seemed unbridgeably wide. Now other people live here, there are other customs and habits there.
The memory went through the vandals.
We always remember, as long as there are wonderful people who explore, preserve and try to return the lost history to the city. And today, the award has found its heroes. 75 glass copies of the keys to synagogues, which were presented at the Lviv Museum of History and Culture at the exhibition of Rachel Stevens, the famous sculptor and art professor of the University of New Mexico (USA), were solemnly given to the most famous people, fighting for the preservation of the Jewish cultural heritage of Lviv and Western Ukraine. The award ceremony was held in the session hall of the Lviv City Council under the direction of Andrey Sadovy, the mayor of the city, and Adele Dianova, the director of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation “Hesed Arye”.
At the end of the ceremony, participants and guests went to a memorial sign located on O. Kovcha street. Here is the place of Janowska concentration camp. This place is very impressive nowadays, too. Behind the memorial sign and the stage there is a huge wasteland, similar to a dug ditch, which is surrounded by mountains of excavated soil. If you climb one of them, an even depressive view appears in front of you. There are brick prison barracks, barbed wire. Now there is a penal colony here. And there is that “death valley” down, where to the sounds of the orchestra, which always played the same melody, the “tango of death”, prisoners were killed. There were no crematoria and gas chambers. But there were numerous scaffolds. And each of the executioners invented his own methods of murder and torture …
Chief Rabbi of Lviv Mordechai Shlomo Bold, surrounded by the guests, delivered a memorial speech and said a prayer. Then, Yanina Hesheles, the former prisoner of the Janowska concentration camp, shared her memories of those terrible days spent here, of thousands of people which were directed from this place through the Kleparov station to the hellish flames of the Belzhets crematoria. Despite her very old age, she found the strength to fly here along his grandson, Rafael Altman-Hecheles. Dr. Arthur Schwartz, the grandson of the prisoner David Schwartz, who died here, said a few words, too. He told the story of his family and all that they had to go through. And when he ended his excited speech, he expressed shock and dismay, caused by the fact that his now-home town of Chemnitz, in Germany, had experienced riots just a couple of days ago, followed by shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Unlearned lessons of history are sometimes too costly for her careless students …
It’s time for living people to light candles in memory of the victims.
This symbolic mission was fulfilled by the grandchildren of concentration camp prisoners – Arthur Schwartz and Rafael Altman-Hesheles. Then, according to Jewish tradition, each of the guests put a pebble at the memorial sign. Representatives of public organizations laid wreaths … and the tragic Symphony № 6 of Austrian Jewish composer Gustav Mahler sounded in the performance of the remarkable Ukrainian Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Ostapovich. This concert was conceived as symbolic, its sounds seemed to bring back the life that the Nazi executioners took to the “tango of death” of the camp orchestra.
After the concert, our guests were expected to have a delicious dinner at the “Town Hall” restaurant. In addition, there was another great event – a concert-prayer with the participation of outstanding musical groups and performers. These were our glorious “Varnichkes”, Eleonora Razgon, Natalia Vakshinskaya and Sergey Gavrilyuk.
Our volunteers Elena Valba, Alexey Wallis, Alexandra Bilyavskaya, Sergey Suprunets, Anastasia Andreichikova deserved gratitude for participating in the holding of these memorial events, since they worked hard and informed the participants about the events on time as well as provided an organized assistance at the events.
Finally, we would like to say the following words. Let this day be another reminder to those people who continue to incite hatred towards people, writing all sorts of myths and parasitizing on deep-routed prejudices in people’s minds. We remind to those who listen with pleasure, looks and thoughtlessly quotes the statements of such “persons”. We warn you about where this road leads, paved with lies and hatred. A lie or half-truth is just a chimera. And truth, as an objective reality, always defeats the chimera, no matter how strong it may seem.