Siret - Czernowitz Trip May  2004 by Thomas Weggemann

Journey to Cernowitz from Siret (Romania at the Ukranian border):

Together with a friend from Dorohoi we went with a private car along the beautiful river Sereth (remember memories of the poet Edgar Hilsenrath ) to the village Siret and from there to the Ukrainian border. The Romanian customs needed 45 minutes to finish some cars in a column, the Ukrainian did it in 15 minutes. From there we [went] over very good streets nearly straight forward in half an hour to Cernowitz. It's only 36 km from the border. For both of us it was the first journey into Ukraine. We have been surprised of the standard of new build houses there, it seemed to us to be at least 30 % higher that in modern Romania. We stayed in Hotel BUKOWINA in the centre, opposite of the "Volksgarten". The room was all right , the service especially of the breakfast still remembers on older times.

Prof. Rychlo showed us the [w]hole afternoon and evening the beautiful centre of Cernowitz, we walked through the typical streets of Cernowitz along [to] the home of Paul Celan, the Herrengasse with Cafe Wien, the German Volkshaus with the exhibition of Georg Drozdowski, the Ringplatz, the main Synagogue (now a cinema and playsaloon [arcade] -- inside a plate of the tenor Josef Schmidt), the Schiller theater and the Jewish Volkshouse (the entrance contains the stars of David which have been damaged during the communist period).

We visited also the painter Bronislav Tutelman, he had exhibited photographs about " Suche nach dem verlorenen Schtetl", he spoke Ukrainian and Yiddish -- the difficulty to be a Jewish artist , and his not easy life. From 78 synagogues only one is left and more or less functioning.

In the evening Prof. Rychlo showed us a Huzulic restaurant where we eat very well -- he has an extreme knowledge of the writers of Bukowina (he published recently an anthology: "Die verlorene Harfe".  [A] new book about Bukowinian write[r]s appears soon called Bukowina"- Europa series from WieserVerlag Klagenfurt, it is published also from him.

On the next day we visited Josef Burg, the last Yiddish writer, he is already 92 and listened to his memories, he also read a story in Yiddish and showed us his "Cernowitzer Blätter" . He still has a lot of jokes, [At] 82 he had been invited in Köln, Germany, there he told to the reporter- we Jews read from right to left, so I am 28 years old.  Now he said, I am 29 ! He got from the government a pension of 34 US $ !

Very near to the Ringplatz is the Jewish school, [It] is supported from Switzerland through R.Guggenheim. It gave us an excellent impression, there are about 300 pupils, more than half are Jewish. They are very proud of the Hebraic classroom and also the computer room, where every pupil has his own computer. They also got already a lot of [prizes].

In the afternoon we visited the Jewish cemetery of Cernowitz. Compared to other cemeteries we have seen in southern Bukowina we have been surprised about the condition , the entrance hall has been damaged, [and] it wasn't possible to walk through the lanes beside the main way etc.

We went back to the town and tried again the Huzulic restaurant, without the help of Prof. Rychlo. The menu was only Ukrainian, nobody spoke a different language than Ukrainian. It was only possible for us to order salad, bread and a glass of beer .

In the evening Prof. Rychlo invited us to the Cafe Wien, where a performance of "Todesfuge" from Paul Celan took place. Olexandre Masan presented with a few actors there a new film about this poem. [Among] the guests have been the VIP of the Jewish community. I could present them my book" Die sprechenden Steine von Siret". They have been very impressed about that cemetery , also [it] is only half an hour from Cernowitz, but in Romania. They are trying now to bring out a book about their cemetery and hope to restore the cemetery as well.

On the next morning we wake up very early, hundreds of raven were crying at the Volksgarten. We went to Sadagora, passing the old town of Cernowitz again, went along the railway station,crossing the river Pruth and entered soon the village Sadagora. That is really a beautiful village with lot of flowering trees mainly red chestnuts, to see the Jewish cemetery. You feel in this village still the atmosphere of the "Wunderrabbi Friedman". The cemetery is beautifully preserved.

The artist B. Tutelman told us [the] day before he went to N.Y. to visit his son and entered a big warehouse, but he could speak only Ukrainian. Nobody did understand him, [so] he tried in Yiddish, the same happened, then he [said], I am from Cernowitz , nobody again look at him, at last he said "Sadagora"- immediately a lot of people surrounded him.

After two and a half day we were glad to find so beautiful and stimulating people there , we will never forget the days in Cernowitz. From there we went back to Siret again, staying less time at the border .