Sidebar on Klishkivtsi
by Aizic Oked Sechter
Klishkivtsi is an amazing fairy book "Shteitel"; a small village where Jews used to live together with their gentile neighbors. Klishkivtsi is one of thousands of similar villages in Eastern Europe where the Jewish presence ceased to exist due to the Holocaust.
Why is Klishkivtsi different from the thousands of other similar villages in Eastern Europe? It is due mainly to its history, being one of the oldest towns in this area of South-West Ukraine today, once Bessarabia, and Russian Empire. Its history goes even further back, having been established during the Turkish Ottoman Empire rule as a penal colony. The convicts' job was to prepare the fertile land for agricultural production.
Established Jewish traders traveling on the "silk road," between
Poland and the Persian Gulf, discovered and used the town as a station to stay over the Sabbath. In the old Jewish cemetery in the central part of the village, there existed gravestones about 500 Years old.
The Jews made a living from agriculture. The whole area was rich in
Agricultural produce, and in Klishkivtsi there was a weekly fair where Agricultural produce and livestock were traded. The Jews also ran stores in the town, and would sublet land belonging to the Church.
Towards the turn of the 20th century about 300 Jewish families lived In Klishkivtsi. Due to anti-Jewish laws, the Jewish residents found it harder and harder to make a living; as a consequence, some of the young people started to immigrate to America and South America. This trend in emigration increased after World War I
due to the fact that during that war all of the Jews of Klishkivtsi were expelled by force, and most of their homes were looted and burned.
After World War I only some of the Jews returned. At the start of World War II the Jews were again expelled, and many of them died in death marches and in death camps in Transniester.
Some of the few survivors that returned to Klishkivtsi after World War II found their homes either burned to the ground or gentiles living in their homes. They were given to understand that they were no longer wanted there.
One by one, these Holocaust survivors left Klishkivtsi, most of them to Israel, some to America and to the rest of the world. By the 1970s the Jewish presence in Klishkivtsi ceased to exist.
The two Jewish cemeteries are in a sorry, rundown state. Of the two Synagogues, only one is still standing, having been turned into a residential house of a non-Jewish family. Most of the Jewish homes have been torn down, and new modern homes built instead. Many of the young residents of Klishkivtsi do not even know that there was a Jewish presence there.
Even though the clock is ticking, and things are not as easy as they look, if we live up to a famous quote of mine, "Be persistent, keep trying, and never give up," we can still turn part of Klishkivtsi into a showcase and a memorial for all those Yidishe shteitels that have been erased from the face of the earth.