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Kiliya activists decided to restore the Jewish cemetery

by Andrew Svetlichniy and Natalia Markelov, August 2014

note: this is an automatic translation from the original Russian article published at

Revolution. War. Death. Devastation. We need to defend the homeland. It is necessary to protect our children and elderly parents. And then it will be necessary to rebuild the country, rebuilt the towns and villages, to sow the fields, lay the gardens.

But, first of all, we need to heal the soul. And raise a new generation of people: self-motivated, educated, with developed historical memory, respecting ourselves and our country. It is a new generation, and forms in the future intellectual development, self-contained community of citizens. This is a new generation to build a strong power that will respect peace. Only for this purpose it is necessary to make every effort to us now. We have to learn ourselves and convey to our children the history, culture and customs. We must learn to respect ourselves, our ancestors and our homeland.

We must learn to be grateful to those who build up the country and, in particular, for the ones who built up our beautiful, ancient, famous and beloved city. Yes Yes. Glorious and beloved. O Kiliya favorite city, we remember when we leave its limits for only a day.

And that Kiliya - glorious city, wrote a lot of historians, local, and not only. Frankly, the great and ancient history Kiliya only heard slogans from local leaders. And just recently I had the opportunity to learn about our city a lot of interesting facts. For example, from the book by Mikhail Bondarenko (1) I learned that in Kiliya was a big, strong Jewish community, thanks to which our city was able to rebuild and develop, after Russian destroyed it in the capture of the fortress Kilia. The Jewish community rebuild the city center. These buildings we use now. The Jews created the workshops and factories, developed trade. It was a great contribution to the development of the city.

From the same book, I learned that we have a Jewish cemetery (2), which is in a terrible state. But now there is an old part, where the graves date from the XIV-XV centuries. In this cemetery are buried those who created Kiliya for us. It is sad to see what happened to their graves.

Our organization "Lantsyug Ednannya - Gromadska initsiativa", realizing that now almost no one takes care of the cemetery (the graves are looked after by two elderly people), I decided in gratitude to our ancestors to recreate this cemetery, show it to the city. After all, it is our common history, our common memory, and it does not matter what nationality who belong. It would seem that the cemetery - not very condusive place to walk, but it is - simply enchanting beauty, which open in the old part. There are beautiful not only landscapes but also the tombstones have some magical beauty.

How was it possible to bring the cemetery to such a state? Strangely, it does not bother even those whose ancestors are buried there. In a state of neglect, not only the old part, but also more modern burial. But these graves relatives come from other cities, other countries.

The organization appealed to the city council for permission to remove overgrown grass and shrubs of the cemetery so all graves were visible and accessible. Even if the people resting here no family left, they deserve that someone cared of their graves. The City Council is certainly not prevented, but was very surprised to learn that the cemetery is running to a point, because for him, as for all the city cemeteries, attached caretaker, who is paid a salary.

Also for permission and support we turned to the chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Odessa region. We received support and a few tips, and now conduct conversation, reporting on our progress and discoveries. We gratefully wrote the Jews from other countries and cities, for which they thank us - so our job is needed by someone.

And only at the local level, among local Jews, we are faced with distrust, cynicism, frank rudeness and insolence. We asked for cooperation, but in response received only threats and bans. The so-called warden hates reason that the cemetery has become civilized. Do not be ashamed if lead visitors to a place? This is the story Kiliya, but it is also a history of the Jewish people. Is the Jewish community has disappeared and historical memory? In such matters, it is necessary to move towards each other, and not in opposition.

The Cemetery belongs to the whole city, and it should be something to solve - the most ancient graves, which are located near the cliff, gradually crumble, disintegrate. On the surface, visible bones to be reburied in the Jewish rite, recite a prayer, this, probably, for a long time no one did. And the interruption must somehow be strengthened to stop the destruction. This place should be preserved as history for our children.

A close it from people who hide our carelessness, and wait until everything is destroyed, and runs by itself - is a tribute to ancestors and example for posterity?

With such an attitude to the city and its history, and hence to ourselves where we come, we will build and leave to our children?

In what city, what country, what kind of society we want to live? Are we ready to change something for the better around you and in yourself?

Natalia Markelov, public organization "Lantsyug Ednannya - Gromadska initsiativa"

(1) Mikhail Bondarenko is author of the book "My Kiliya and our Russian ancestors" (in Russian).
He has a website dedicated to Kiliya: (translation by google) and you can contact him by mail at
(2) For more information on the Jewish Cemetery please visit the Cemeteries Page.
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