Photo Exhibition “Searching For Traces” opened in Cologne

On September 17 my photo exhibition “Searching For Traces – Jewish Heritage in Western Ukraine” was opened in the hall of the Regional Association of the Rhineland in Cologne. The exhibition consists of a selection of my black and white images from Galicia, Podolia and Bukovina. Since October 2012, I repeatedly traveled in Ukraine – with me my old analog camera. This project has now come to a first climax and the future will show whether this is an end or a beginning.

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Uhniv, Buchach and Hrymailiv in black and white

The black and white films and scans from my recent trip to Ukraine are back from the photo lab. The synagogue and the Beit Midrash (House of Study) in Uhniv, the Jewish cemetery in Buchach and the imposing synagogue in Hrymailiv are among the subjects. Here is a first selection.

A hidden prayer room

In Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg) are the remains of the most famous and oldest synagogue in the territory of Ukraine, the “Golden Rose”. Of the approximately 70 synagogues in the city only two more have survived the German occupation, almost every guidebook mentions them. Virtually unknown, however, is a prayer room which is hidden in a basement.

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Under a Blue Sky

When I woke up the sky was deep blue, the weather report promised 35 degrees. I decided to stay in the city and to walk to the Jewish cemetery and the nearby former concentration camp site. It was a sad walk.

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On the road with the volunteers

Today I was traveling with the volunteers who work at the Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz). Kosiv, Kuty and Vyzhnytsia (Wischnitz) were on the schedule. A journey through Hasidic wonderland. A wonderland that only exists in memories.

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A day in Czernowitz, an afternoon with the volunteers

The Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz) is an enchanted garden. In his jungle you meet lions, deer, blessing hands, and people who are long gone. This morning I had some time to explore it once again. Even after many visits, it is a fascinating place to me. The cemetery tells of rise and fall of Jewish Czernowitz. I spent the afternoon with the volunteers of SVIT Ukraine who work in the cemetery.

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Meeting the volunteers

Today I have met the volunteers of SVIT Ukraine who work in the Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), to clear it of rampant vegetation. It is a miracle that this workcamp takes place. Many people are afraid to come to Ukraine because of the war in the east of the country. And SVIT faced big challenges. The organization has its headquarters in Artemovsk, which was temporarily occupied by “separatists”. The infrastructure had to be moved to Kharkiv, bank accounts registered in Artemovsk were temporarily closed. The by Russia stirred up war has an impact on Ukrainian civil society and on the opportunities of young people for international exchange.

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How history vanishes

The witnesses of Galicia’s multiethnic past are still there. But piece by piece they vanish. Many already don’t know about their meaning any more. When I was in Hrymailiv in February to change from one bus to another, I asked a few people for the location of the local synagogue. No one of them had ever heard of a synagogue in town. Today I was there.

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