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Kiliya History

Kiliya is the oldest among the cities on the Ukrainian Danube. Its history goes back amost 2500 years and dates back from the foundation of the Greek trading post called Psilon. In ancient times, the Greeks called the city Likostoma. An ancient legend says that the town was called Achilles (or Achilla, then Kiliya) by Alexander the Great when he passed by in 334 BC, in honor to his ancestor, the demigod Achilles.

In times of Kievan Rus' the city was known as Pereyaslavets and became the second capital of Prince Svyatoslav during his trips to Bulgaria.

Jews are first mentioned in Kiliya in 1545. In the latter part of the century Jewish merchants from Constantinople (Ottoman Empire) used to pass through Kiliya on their way to Lvov.

Information on a Jewish community is available only from the early 18th century (1713; 1715).

There were 27 Jewish families (out of a total of 478) in 1808, and 249 persons in 1827.

The community grew as a result of Jewish immigration into Bessarabia during the 19th century, and numbered 2,153 (18.5% of the total) in 1897.

In 1930 there were 1,969 Jews (11.3% of the total).

Before World War II the communal institutions included 4 nice synagogues (the 'main' synagogue on Big Danube Street was considered as one of the luxury buildings of the town), school and day care “Tarbut”, youth organizations of different movements, library, drama class, sport groups, “Maccabi” brass orchestra, loan and savings bank, 2 old-age homes.

In 1940 it was annexed by the Soviet Union and incorporated in the Moldavian SSR.

In July 1941, when German and Romanian armies entered Bessarabia, the Jews were transferred to Bolgrad and killed there.

While there are no known statistics of the Jewish population after World War II, in the period from 1950-1999 the number of burials in the Jewish Cemetery almost doubled the burials in the period 1900-1949 so we can assume that the population increased.

When the Kiliya Cemetery Project was performed in 2014, the last burial dated from the same year, so we assume the cemetery is still in use and there's still some Jewish population in the city.

Burials in the Jewish Cemetery per Period (*)
PeriodNumber of burials
1820 - 184928
1850 - 189944
1900 - 194970
1950 - 1999130
2000 - 20147
(*) Note: these numbers correspond only to the readable tombstones that were indexed during the Kiliya Cemetery Project

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica, jewishvirtuallibrary.org, Kiliya Yizkor Book, Bessarabia SIG Cemetery Project
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