Ukraine -- Struggle to recognize and recover Jewish heritage and history

Old Jewish Cemetery in L'viv -- now destroyed and built over by a market
By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Kyiv Post has run a 5-part series over the past few weeks about the struggle of memory over Jewish heritage and history in Ukraine in the wake of the Holocaust.

One of the articles, which are by Natalia A. Feduschak, focuses on the valiant Meylakh Sheykhat and his tireless battles to preserve and honor Jewish heritage sites.
For nearly two decades, often working with limited resources, Sheykhet has tirelessly traveled throughout western Ukraine to ensure Jewish cultural remnants are preserved. It has not been an easy job for the 58-year-old, who has lived in Lviv nearly his entire life.

Not only is Sheykhet racing against time, neglect and the elements, he is also fighting apathy from some segments of the Ukrainian population, which does not always recognize Jewish culture as part of its own.

For instance, since 2003 he has been at loggerheads with local officials in Sambir, a town south of Lviv, to remove three large Christian crosses erected in the Jewish part of the cemetery. Visits by international figures like former Canadian-Ukrainian parliamentarian Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Mark Freiman, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, have not changed local minds.

Before World War II, today’s western Ukraine boasted artifacts that reflected a culturally rich Jewish life. The landscape was dotted with cemeteries and synagogues, while towns and villages, often home to a population comprised largely of Jews, bore entire Jewish quarters with unique religious and residential structures.

Read a profile of Meylach HERE