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ShtetLinks: Simnas 5424 2339
69.6 miles WSW of Vilnius

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Lakes of Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

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Sights of Simnas   

When we first reached the outskirts of the town of Simnas, our guide stopped an elderly woman walking down the main road. In Lithuanian she asked some questions and with this, the woman, donned in a babushka, walked about a half a block to her house, and then joined us in the van. She was missing most of her teeth. We embarked on what was to be one of many highlights on this journey, the memorial built to commemorate the Jews of Simnas, who were like so many others, corraled from their homes and brought to a location outside of the town and gunned down. Located what seemed to be several miles outside of the town proper, we turned off the main road, under a narrow brick bridge where stood several feet of water, bumped down a narrow dirt road for what seemed like 15-20 minutes. We passed through several miles of forest before reaching a clearing. There in our wonderment stood what has to be one of the most beautiful and stunning memorials in all of Lithuania. One has to wonder, based on its location outside of the city, if any other visitor has ever seen it.

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Memorial to the Jews murdered in the forest outside of Simna
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

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Memorial to the Jews murdered in the forest outside of Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

After spending a great deal of time at the memorial, we came out of the forest the same way we went in, (and to my amazement, didn't appear to be near as long as it was coming in) and headed into town on the same road where we had originally found our "babushka" guide. After dropping her off at the exact location we picked her up, we said goodbye and thanked her for what was to be the highlight of our trip. We then headed to what was the center of town. We stopped at a large multi-color brick building, which was once the synagogue in Simnas. Today, the building is used as a gymnasium for the younger children and unfortunately was closed.

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Synagogue in Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

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Synagogue in Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

It was during our walk outside of this building when we were approached by a frantic old man, who was running towards us. Needless to say, I was a bit frightened! As he flailed his arms in the air, he began speaking with our guide and asked if we were Jewish. He began to tell us his father had worked at the synagogue up to the time the Jews were marched into the woods and murdered. He had something from the synagogue he had been holding, waiting for someone to visit. Tears were streaming down his eyes as he told us of the day the Jews were lead out of the town and into the woods and murderd one by one. He took us to his house, gave us a tour, showed us a chair from the synagogue, and came down from the loft with an old gramaphone and the 78 records which were used during services.

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Outside of the home of the man mentioned above
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

As we began to get into our van, many locals began to congregate around us. We ended up spending nearly an hour in discussion of life in Simnas today and yesterday.

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Our meeting with the locals of Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

From the synagogue, we drove to the area where the Jewish cemetery had been. There are no remnants or any tombstones . It like most of the area was lush in greenery. (ADD video clips of the cemetery location)

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Location of the Jewish cemetery
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

Location of the Jewish cemetery
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

As we drove away from the town where our ancestors once lived, we could only marvel at the beauty of the land.

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Farmland on the outskirts of Simnas
Photo, copyright 1997, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

 

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Eastern European FAQ - Helpful hints for researching in Eastern Europe

A Sidebar

Three days after my return from Lithuania, I did what I had promised myself I would do, go look for a  pal for my lonesome Boo, who lost her life long companion just a few months earlier. Having a great deal of trouble concentrating, I zipped off to the SPCA, and in the first cage, this creature caught my eye. There was no decision, she was adopted, later to find out she had only been out on display for 5 brief minutes. She is my daily reminder of my trip, one, thanks to Regina Kopilevich, was a trip of a lifetime. And nary a thought about a name for her, she was of course "Simnas" - "Simmy" for short. Our relationship began, much the same way I felt inside, overwhelmed and in a state of decompression. The first week, there was the trip to the emergency room to have a leg stitched up. <grin> And before the stitches ever came out, I watched her (out of the corner of my eye) jump out of the back car window in moving traffic. All is well that ends well and the good news is, we have both calmed down and adapted to our new life experiences!

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A constant reminder of my trip to Simnas!
Photo, copyright 1998, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

 

Compiled by Susan E. King

 

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