Tuesday June 10
Yesterday we did a lot in Balta, and I was too exhausted to write everything down, only got though the first cemetary before I fell asleep. Also having network issues.
We're about to start on today's adventures, so I'll send out the report in segments.
Monday June 9
Today at breakfast we decided on the plan for the day. There were three possible options: Vadim Vinyarskiy, leader of the Balta congregation, had offered to meet with me and show me around Balta; Vadim had also invited me to the synagogue to participate in the Shevuot holiday; and I wanted to visit the existing Jewish cemetaries.
I was anxious about going to the synagogue, since I'm not religious, I don't know Ukrainian or Hebrew, and I thought Alex would possibly not be there. However, I didn't want to offend Vadim by not accepting his offer.
I talked the matter over with Alex, he said he would make an appropriate excuse.
So we decided to visit the cemetaries first, and then meet with Vadim when he was done with services.
We hit the road, and started on the same road we had taken yesterday to Gelbinova. This road parallels the river Kodyma. It was quite bumpy in parts.
After a while, we came to the sign for Balta:
Eventually we came to Balta proper. It looks like many other towns in Ukraine, a bit run down. Here is a picture from the main drag:
So once in the town proper, we started to look for the cemetaries. There were two that still existed, one on each side of the river. Later we learned that there had been two others which had been destroyed.
The story is that originally Balta had been two different towns, one on each side of the river, and each town had its own Jewish graveyard. Eventually both graveyards became full, and two new ones were created, one on each side of the river.
Then in 1929 the Soviet Union passed a law that land like an old cemetary which was no longer in use could be repurposed, so both old cemetaries were destroyed.
Both new cemetaries had a caretaker who had a list of the people buried. Alex called one, and she agreed to meet us.
The city of Balta used to pay the caretakers for there efforts; then the Jewish comunity, until they ran out of money. Now no one pays them. I gave a small donation to each caretaker.
We told Natasha that we were intetested in surnames Mishurisman, Flickstein, Polesar, Kogan, Toberman, Tsatskin (Grandapa Bernie's paternal aunt Ruchleya married Moshe Tsatskin).
Natsha led me to the grave of Chasya Flickstein, daughter of Abraham:
I couldn't recall this person, but fortunately I had taken a picure of a family tree which Grandpa Bernie had constructed (or maybe it was Sue, I'm not sure). There was Hasia Flickstein, daughter of Abraham, sister of Grandpa Bernie's mother Tsipa, so aunt of Grandpa Bernie. Success!
One interesting thing about this is that Chasya lived until 1953. On the family tree, her birth and death dates show up as question marks, so Grandpa Bernie did not know much about her, and may not have known that she survived WWI and WWII.
Unfortunately, that was the only person who matched the surnames I gave Natasha: Mishurisman, Flickstein, Polisar, Toberman, Kogan.
I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but the Kogan surname is a recent find. On the family tree mentioned above, Granda Bernie's maternal grandmother is listed as Hinda Toberman. But in the marriage record between Hinda and Avram Flickstein she is listed as Hinda Mendelevna Kogan (Hinda Kogan daughter of Mendel).
I'm not sure what to make of this discrepancy. It could be that the marriage record is for a different Hinda and Avram Flickstein, but the ages match. It could be that Grandpa Bernie's family tree map for Hinda is wrong about the Toberman surname. So for now, I'm following both surnames.
There were three Kogan tombstomes, but no obvious match; I have pictures just in case.
That's it for now, will write more soon.
Love -- Dave