My destination today is called Uhniv, with just about 2,000 inhabitants, the smallest town with the status of a city in Ukraine. From Lviv (Lemberg, Lwow), there are rarely direct buses to Uhniv. I decide to go first to Rava Ruska and to change the bus there.
Rava Ruska is located in immediate vicinity to the Polish border. In just 14 kilometers distance was the Belzec death camp. 400,000 people were murdered there during the German occupation. Via Rava Ruska rolled the trains with the Galician Jews to their final destination. In the city itself, the Jewish population was forced into a ghetto. There was also a detention camp for prisoners of war. In both locations conditions must have been unimaginably horrible.
I ask some people for the bus to Uhniv. My asking seems to have awakened one’s suspicion, soon a border guard appears and would like to check my passport. He asks by phone if there is anything against me, he would like to know where I come from, where I’m going to and why. I try to explain and succeed despite my non-existent Ukrainian language skills. Now I finally get the desired information, when and where the bus departs to Uhniv. The officer says goodbye with a firm handshake and a broad smile.
The road to Uhniv is close to the Polish border. First we pass vast wheat fields. Harvest has begun. Trucks are waiting to be loaded. Storks walk behind tractors and harvesters. Then we pass dense forests. Finally, it is slightly cooler in the bus.
The first building that strikes me, is the ruin of a large Baroque church. Through a crack in the wooden door I have a look inside. The building is completely empty. Pigeons fly in and out. Nearby there is a small museum on local history. If Uhniv is the smallest city in Ukraine, this must be the smallest museum. A cobweb at the door indicates that the number of visitors is low.
Behind a Soviet style factory building are a former synagogue and a Beit Midrash – a Jewish house of study. The synagogue appears to be used as a garage, the house of study as an office. Both are closed – it’s Sunday. I walk around the buildings and take pictures. A stork has settled on a lamppost and flies up as I get closer. A friendly young man joins me and asks questions. He is a bit disappointed that I’m only from Germany and not from far away America. Whether I like the synagogue? I nod my head. Beautiful, he says, beautiful. He leaves me for a short time, but returns a few minutes later to tell me that the bus to Lviv leaves in 5 minutes. In Uhniv they are pleased about guests, and they are pleased when they’re gone again.
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