On the road to Bălţi

On our way to Bălţi (Beltsy) were Orhei and Teleneşti. The Jewish cemetery of Orhei is one of the oldest in Bessarabia. Rarely I have seen such an impressive cemetery. A unique place!

Before we were leaving Chişinău we visited the Gleizer Shil, a Hasidic synagogue, which is operated by Chabad Lubavitch. It is a beautiful building from the late 19th century, which was renovated 6 years ago. We found the synagogue open, met the Rabbi – accompanied by some of his followers. He kindly welcomed us, we had a small talk. The Hasidim were already in anticipation of Purim, which will begin tonight.

We continued our journey towards Bălţi, the first stop on our route was Orhei. We knew that the cemetery is large – about 25,000 graves – but we did not expect such a breathtaking view. The 400 year old cemetery is located on a hillside above a vast plain. The lower part is the oldest – a desolate field of broken or crooked gravestones. The upper part is younger and partly maintained, partly overgrown. We saw several workers carrying out works to clean the cemetery.

At the entrance a friendly man welcomed us – the language barrier was quickly overcome: he spoke Yiddish, I German. He guided us around, showed us the monument on the mass grave and the avenue where the wealthy Jewish citizens from Orhei were buried – doctors, lawyers, engineers who have worked all over the world.

“Today, few Jews live here” told our new friend. “25 years ago, they almost all emigrated to Israel, America, Germany.” Nevertheless, there is still a Jewish community – we saw the small synagogue on the main street of the town. It was unfortunately closed.

Going to Teleneşti (Teleneshty) is only a short detour on the way to Bălţi. The town looks miserable, many closed factories, bad roads. Not everyone liked to talk to us when we ask for the Jewish cemetery. Finally, we found the cemetery in the town’s outskirt. It looks as bleak as the rest of the place. There are the remains of an older cemetery, but we are no longer in the mood to search for it; we leave for Bălţi.

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