Into Transnistria

To go from Rezina to Rîbniţa (Rybnitsa) and Raşcov (Rashkov) one has to cross the border from Moldova to “Transnistria”. The border is controlled only on the Transnistrian side, as Moldova considers the region as part of its national territory. The Jewish cemetery in Rîbniţa and the old synagogue in Raşcov were our destinations.

Today we have been in “Transnistria” to visit the Jewish cemetery in Rîbniţa (Rybnitsa) and the old synagogue in Raşcov (Rashkov). “Transnistria” has nothing to do with the Romanian wartime deportation zone, as some readers may suspect. It is a region that in the course of collapse of the Soviet Union declared its independence from Moldova – now it’s a Disneyland for Soviet nostalgics with Lenin statues, oligarchic economy and a government dependent of Moscow. As we have repeatedly heard of lawlessness, we decided not to travel with our rental car, but by a taxi. Our taxi driver proved to be a great help when we crossed the border and brought us safely to our destinations and back.

The Jewish cemetery of Rîbniţa is a pleasant contrast to the neglected cemetery in Rezina, which we visited yesterday. It is picturesquely situated on a hillside overlooking a valley. The cemetery is maintained and further restoration work is planned. The Jewish community has erected a monument on the mass grave of the murdered Jews of Rîbniţa ghetto. The cemetery is no longer in use, today the Jewish community buries their dead on a new cemetery.

The route north towards Raşcov is picturesque, it leads along the Dniester river through pretty villages. The population is mixed, Moldovans, Ukrainians and Russians live here. Our taxi driver pointed to the right and said, “the hills over there are already in Ukraine”.

The synagogue of Rascov from the mid-18th century belongs to the most impressive witnesses of the past we saw on our trip. It is the counterpart to the great cemetery in Vadul-Raşcov (Vadul Rashkov) on the Moldovan side of the river. Inside the synagogue, many details of the original decoration are preserved, including the Torah shrine.

Through incredibly narrow stairs one gets up to the top of the synagogue’s wall and enjoys an impressive view into the interior. Can you feel happy in a place of destruction? Yes, you can. Especially because of the destruction it is a miracle that so much has been preserved and it is fortunate to be able to see it.

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