From Soroca to Otaci

From Soroca we went further north to Zguriţa (Zguritsa) and Otaci (Ataki). In both places there are Jewish cemeteries and former synagogues. Both cemeteries have a special magic – the one due to its picturesque location, the other due to the age and the artistic quality of the gravestones.

The Jewish cemetery of Zguriţa surprised us – it is the first time we see a signpost for a cemetery. The cemetery is part of a tourism project and that is probably also the reason why it is so well maintained. As so often the cemetery is picturesquely situated on a hilltop overlooking valleys and hills all around. We were completely charmed by the beauty of the place and looked for a long time at the gravestones and the open plains around.

The former synagogue is located in the center of the town. In Soviet times it had been used as a warehouse – now it is crumbling and deserted.

Otaci is already at the Ukrainian border – opposite of river Dniester is Mohyliv-Podilskyi. For the Bukovinian Jews Otaci was a place of horror. During the war it was the transit point to the camps and ghettos in Transnistria. Who was deported, came inevitably through Otaci; who set over the river could not hope to return. Otaci separated the normal life of the past from the horrors of the present and the future. It is often forgotten that Otaci looks back on a long Jewish history. The Jewish cemetery – situated in the suburban village of Vălcineţ (Volchinets) – is impressively large. Its oldest part is surrounded by an earthen wall, as it was common in the medieval cemeteries in Galicia.

The old gravestones in Vălcineţ are quite different from most of what we have seen so far on our trip. Here we saw reliefs of lions, deer, unicorns and candlesticks – in style as the old gravestones in Galicia and Bukovina. Many gravestones overwhelmed us by the high artistic quality of the stone carving.

Less encouraging is the state of the former synagogue of Otaci. The building has burnt out and offers a sad view. Whether it can be saved is doubtful.

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3 thoughts on “From Soroca to Otaci

  1. Christian:
    Your photographs are always a treat and your commentary a sad reminder of Otaci’s past.
    Thank you so much for all your good work.
    Simon

  2. Thanks a lot, Christian.
    I’am a brazilian jewish from Porto Alegre, in the south. My grandparents came to Brazil in the 1920s from Zguritza, surnames are Wasserstein, Ferman, Karangatch and Roitman. Very intersting your research. Best regards.

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