Wednesday, June 12.
We are now leaving Vinnysta, heading towards Staraya Sinyava and then Lviv.
It's been a bit of work to write these travelogue entries, last night I goofed off and browsed the internet instead of writing. I found this storu of how Agatha Chrystie faked her own death at Newlands Corner, where we were last week:
But back now to the day in Balta:
So on Monday, after lunch, we drove to Vadim's house on Turkish side of town.
By the way, I've beem calling the two parts of the Balta divided by the river the Turkish side and the Polish side. This is because I'm looking at it through the lens of history. But I have no idea if the current inhabitants call the two sides Turkish and Polish or North and South or whatever.
We rang the bell at Vadim's house, and were led though a nice walled garden with cats and Vadim's daughters, took off our shoes, and sat with Vadim in his living room. Then Vadim launched into a history of the region and of Balta.
He talked rapidly and concisely; Alex later said that Vadim so quickly he almost had trouble keeping up. I tried to take notes about what je saod, but I'm sure I missed a lot. Here's a brief summary:
It is unknown when Balta was founded, but there are some theories. According to one, it was started in the 1300's when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania controlled the region; "Balt" in Lithiamian means white, and maybe the namers of the town saw the white flowers that come up in the spring time.
Another theory is that Balta come from a Turkish word for axe. The river Kodyma was a border between the Poland and the Crimean Tartar Khanate (a province of the Ottoman Turk Empire) for some 200 years, and in 1526 the Turks built a fortress and called it Balta.
The river Kodyma was the border between Turkey and Poland. Along the road from Kryve Ozero many towns were built on both sides of the river -- on one side the Turkish town the other Polish.
The Ukrainian Cossack Commander Semen Paliy (1645-1710) had an inn on the northern side, across from the Balta fort, and so the Polish town was at first called Paliy Ozero (Paliy's lake).
Later the Polish town was owned by Prince Yusof Lubomirski, and so it was renamed to be Yusefgrod.
The Lubomirski family brought Jews and Ukrainian peasants to settle in Yusegrod. The Jews lived both in Balta and Yusefgrod, and acted as traders or smugglers, moving goods from one side to the other. The head of the city organization was Dovid Shmulevich.
In 1768 there was a Cossack and Ukrainian uprising against the Polish nobility, mainly in Uman, but in Balta as well. Both Poles and the Jews were attacked.
Many Jews fled to the Turkish side. The Cossacks followed, led by a Russian named Zalizniak. Many Jews and Tartars were killed in Balta as a result.
The Turkic officials blamed Russia for the attack (some of the attackers were Russian Cossacks) and the 1768 Russo-Turkic war started. It lasted for 7 years, and in the end the Turks kept Balta but lost Crimea.
In 1789, the next war between Turkey and Russia begins and by 1791, Balta becomes part of the Russian Empire. Up to this point, Yusergrod on the Polish side of the river is still Polish.
However, Poland is being carved up between Russia, Austria, and Germany. In 1793, with the Second Partition of Poland, Yusefgrod becomes part of the Russian Empire.
Now both Balta on the Turkish side and Yusefgrod on the Polish side are both part of Russia, but the two cities remain separate.
For a short time, Yusefgrod is named Elensk (Helen's town) after the granddaughter of Tsarina Catherine the Great.
The local authorities and merchants apply to the Russian government to combine both cities into one, and in 1797, the goverment issues the order. The combined town takes the name Balta, as that is the more common name.
In a short time, Balta grows to be the biggest town in the region, and becomes the county seat; the county (uezd) takes on the Balta name as well.
There was always a large Jewish population in Balta. In 1783, 80% were Jewish. At one time, there was 1 Roman Catholic church, 1 Old Believer church, 2 Orthodox churches and 22 synagogues. There is also a theory that the name of the river Kodyma comes from a Hebrew word for the phrase "towards the east" (it flows from east to west).
In 1882, the Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, and a Jew was involved. This sparked a pogrom in Balta. On Pesach, people from other villages came to Balta to wreak havoc.
As a result, some Jews began to emmigrate out of Balta.
There were more pogroms: in 1905 sparked by the Russian-Japanese war; in 1917 when the Tsar abdicated, and in 1920 when the Soviets took over.
Between 1924 and 1929, Balta was the capital of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. This was an entity created by Grigory Kotovsky and others, after the Soviets took over the region under general Mikhail Frunze.
After 1929, the capital was moved to Tiraspol, and in 1940, the republic was dismantled, and part was put into the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic, and the other part was put into the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic, including Balta. This was the beginning of Moldova Trans-Nistra conflict that continues today.
And now it's Thursday, I'm in Paris with Suzanne and Sophie. I will finish the conversation with Vadim in yet another email.
My apologies for the long history lesson. Hope all is well -- Dave