[Cz-L] Charles' Report: 3 days in Czernowitz

From: Charles Rosner <frenchczern1_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2008 09:44:27 -0700 (PDT)
To: Czernowitz Genealogy and History <czernowitz-l_at_list.cornell.edu>
Reply-to: Charles Rosner <frenchczern1_at_yahoo.com>

Hello everybody!
Here is my report.
First, you should know that I received in spring an official invitation sig=
ned by the mayor of Cz. I kept silent about it for two main reasons: it was =
a big surprise for me and I had to make up my mind about such trip, knowing =
that I was to be back in France on October 8th for my daughter’s bir=
thday; but also, I prefered to avoid potential fruitless debates whether I s=
hould accept or not, etc. How it came about this invitation, is a twisted st=
ory: during the 2006 meeting, I used the opportunity of being in Cz to give =
a lecture in French about Edi Wagner at the small Cz-er Alliance França=
ise. A year and a half later, it happened that the French Ambassador in Kiev=
 – whom I knew from my time in Cameroon (he retired recently) =
forwarded an exemplar of my book (Emancipation – Etes-vous (auss=
i) de Czernowitz?) to the Director of that AF. This guy was a member of the =
jubilee-preparation committee and he suggested my name for an invitation.
When I told this story to my friend in Kiev – she is first deputy G=
M of an Ukrainian retail bank owned by a French banking group – she =
offered to take me along her business trip (by car) to some of their branche=
s in the south of Ukraine, in particular to Odessa (which I didn’t k=
now yet), and ending in Chernivtsi in time for the jubilee. In addition, it =
happens that the manager of the Cz-er branch is a member of the city council=

Although the first part of my trip is not directly related to Cz, it might =
interest some of you to know that we also made a short stop in Uman a few da=
ys before Rosh Hashanah: like every year, there were thousands of hassids (I=
 have some pictures) gathering there from israel, USA, etc. close to the gra=
ve of a tsadik called Nachman whom they worship. Let me also tell you that I=
 went two days before Rosh Hashana into the main synagogue of Odessa: plenty=
 people there, preparing for the new year. And when I asked how many Jews li=
ve in that town, the answer was 45000! According to my friend, 90 percent of=
 all Odessit have at least a drop of Jewish blood… :-)
On Friday October 3rd in Czernowitz, I first gave a lecture in French at th=
e university (students, professors and some invited people were present), ta=
lking mainly about the history of Bukowina, of Czernowitz and of the Jewish =
presence. Thereafter, I was at the inauguration of an exhibition in the Arts=
 Museum entitled <Paul Celan’s young years, from Czernowitz to Bucar=
est>, showing pictures of Paul Celan, and copies of documents and of some of=
 his handwritings. It was organised by a French professor of German from the=
 Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.
(Hardy, I checked my pictures again: the plate with Georg Heinzen’s=
 quotation is on the building next to the Arts Museum)
In the afternoon I met with Cornel and his wife Masha, as well as with Syl=
via de Swaan – who’s my <almost-twin-sister>, as whe was bor=
n in Cz one day before me – at the cemetery. Of course, we took some=
 pictures. I was there to find out about the rehabilitation of Edi Wagner=
s grave: it’s OK. But the cemetery is generally in a very bad =
condition: the vegetation-removal done by the volunteers is quite limited, c=
onsidering the size of the cemetery, the rest is a jungle, many stones are d=
own or broken, even some that are relatively close to the entrance…
(Mimi, I tried to find out about a surveyor, but I was told by a former arc=
hitect that the cost of having the two main lanes (say 600 m long x 3 m wide=
) covered with asphalt would cost roughly eighty thousand dollars! This is f=
ar beyond our meager means…)
In terms of accommodation, the city assigned me to the Cheremosh hotel. As =
an invitee, I received a few presents (CDs, books, chocolate, a teeshirt, et=
c.) plus some documents and a badge that I used a few times as a laisser-pas=
ser in front of the milicia (police).
On Friday afternoon, I was quite free to chose my wandering, shoot photos, =
etc. In the evening I had a nice dinner with Cornel, Macha and Sylvia, talki=
ng about Cz and telling our Cz-er jokes. But on Saturday and Sunday I got a =
bit <herumgeschleppt>, the manager of the local branch considering it as his=
 duty to show me around... but I still could chose which places and events I=
 wanted to see.
You know already about my attendance to an official reception and my discus=
sions with some city council members. And, thanks to Hardy’s explora=
tions on the web, you have already seen pictures of the different attraction=
s (folkloric march and exhibitions, gigantic cake, fireworks, 600-years=
memorial donated by Ian Tabachnik, etc.) I will therefore just give s=
ome general impressions.
Saturday was a nice and sunny day, whereas it mainly rained on Sunday. For =
example, the unveiling of the 600-years memorial (which took finally place o=
n Sunday) happened under heavy rain. This was close to the <ship-building> a=
t the corner of present Holovna and Sholem Aleichem streets, and there was a=
n orchestra on its first floor balcony, playing heroically under umbrellas t=
hat other people had to hold over them (I have some pictures). On Saturday l=
ate afternoon there was a <surprise-concert> in the open (on the Soborna squ=
are, I believe) with an Italian composer and singer called Toto Something (I=
 always forget his name, as I don’t like his <proste> way of shout-s=
inging): a crowd of thousands of people, even with babies, and more noise th=
an music. We didn’t stay…
Thanks to the rehabilitation efforts, Czernowitz looks a lot better, especi=
ally downtown around the Ringplatz, Theaterplatz, Herrengasse, etc., than a =
few years earlier, although there is still a lot to do. The Herrengasse is =
now a pedestrian area, quite nice, with small trees and banks to sit in the =
middle; but I noticed that, among the different names of the town (Czernowit=
z, Cernauti, etc.) appearing on the side of the street, all those written in=
 latin and cyrillic letters are to be read from the middle of the street, wh=
ereas, at least in one case, the name in hebrew letters appears somehow upsi=
de down. Maybe this is because they didn’t take into account the rig=
ht to left writing?
On Saturday early morning (first day of festivities), we went with my frien=
d to the Tuerkische Brunnenplatz: they were still working to pave some areas=
, arrange flower beds, etc. In fact, even downtown, on the Herrengasse and e=
lsewhere, many things were not finished or still wet from the last works don=
e the night before. The jokes I heard were that the mayor was close to a hea=
rt attack…
I went twice into the Tempel: already for 2-3 years there is no more bazar =
inside, and I was told this will not be the case anymore, now that the city =
has a few modern shopping centers. But there is still a bookmaker’s =
kassa and the cinema works everyday. There was a small exhibition called <to=
uch and see>, with pictures and special devices meant for blind people. It w=
as organised by an Ukrainian actor born in Chernivtsi, who grew up in France=
 and now lives there.
(Yes, Mimi, concerning the Tempel, I believe it could be used as a conferen=
ce hall, plus some offices and/or exhibition rooms. It is owned by the city =
and there is a law whereby religious buildings have to be given back to the =
relevant communities, provided they have the means to maintain them correctl=
y. But the cost of the Tempel’s maintenance (not to speak of the reh=
abilitation cost!) is very high and I mentioned already the 10 or so local J=
ewish oragnizations fighting each other…)
The official <terets> for the presence of commercial activities inside the =
building, is that it covers some of the maintenance costs. So, I insisted th=
at, pending the time they give it back, I’d prefer either cultural a=
ctivities or even to have it simply and completely closed up, rather than an=
y commercial activities: with the latter, the shame goes on the city, wherea=
s, if it is closed and no community takes it over after a few years, the sha=
me goes on the Jewish communities… But this argument will certainly =
not help. For example, you should know that even in Kiev, the Saint Spirit C=
athedral (quite beautiful inside) asks you to pay some small fee in order to=
 take pictures…
I also wanted to see the Jewish Museum, although it was to open only on nex=
t Tuesday. I went twice (you already know that it is officially called the B=
ukowina Jewish Museum of History and Culture – why not Bukowina Muse=
um of Jewish History and Culture?) and was so lucky as to meet Mr Zissels an=
d Mrs. Shevshenko. The two small rooms are well organised and there is on on=
e wall the <beginning> of the Shoah, including a picture (without hat) of Tr=
aian Popovici. I mentioned to Mr. Zissels the problems about the text on TP=
’s plate: he was not aware of everything, but he as well indicated t=
hat these are related to the fact that the 1941-44 period is still considere=
d by some people in the council as <occupation> years.
That’s all, folks! I enjoyed my three days in Czernowitz as much as=
 I could and I believe that Cornel&Masha, Sylvia, Cora and Kevin will tell y=
ou more, especially about the Yom Kippur in Cz and the Ghetto-walk.
Shana Tova (even if this wish comes a bit late) and regards to all,

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Received on 2008-10-11 16:44:27

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