Report on a trip to Khorostkov

by Mike Bratter

I visited Khorostkov in September 1999 on a JewishGen trip to Ukraine.  We were based out of Lviv, but I was able to take a side trip to Khorostkov with a local driver and guide.   The shtetl is about an hour from Tarnopol,  the only major city in the region.  Tarnopol currently has about 300,000 inhabitants.  Unlike the city of Lviv which remains in tact and is quite beautiful, Tarnopol was largely destroyed during W.W.II.  Today the cityscape is marred with unremarkable cinder block square buildings  

There is only one main road leading into Khorostkov.  It was immediately clear to me once we arrived  that this was a small and very poor little town.   The first site we passed was a rundown beet sugar refinery at the entrance to the town.  The smell of beets is heavy throughout Ukraine, it was especially heavy here in Khorostkov.  The entrance to the town is flat but there is a hilly section of the town.  The hill immediately caught my eye because my father told me that his mother said this is where the Jews of Khorostkov lived.

As we drove on  I noticed small groups of people standing along the road chatting.  We stopped by a small group of older women and asked them to direct us to "Jewish" sites around the town.   These women all wore scarves around their heads and were dressed in the type of clothing we would picture peasants or gypsies wearing in times long gone.  This is exactly how my grandmother dressed when we were living in Brooklyn, NY.  I thought it was strange when I was growing up, I guess it's not so strange though if you live in Ukraine.  These women directed us to the memorial site where the massacre of all the town's Jews took place in the summer of 1943.  The site was difficult to find, it was located in a back lot in an out of the way part of town. The site was pretty much at the end of the main road that leads into the town.    The only bright spot was that the site was across from the only beautiful stretch of farmland I noticed in the town. This of course was completely coincidental, since the site was clearly in a hidden spot that probably received little if any attention by the locals.  We would have never found it if we didn't receive specific directions.

We attempted to find the site of where the Jewish cemetery once stood.  One of the women we spoke with earlier mentioned where this was but we had to ask around a few more times to find it. Unlike the massacre site, this one was located up in the hill.  We managed to find what we believed to be the site of where the cemetery once stood.  I never received confirmation that it was the exact spot but I'm pretty sure it was.  All that's left today is a weed filled field filled with litter and a few roaming cows and ducks.  A few small rundown cottages are also around the property.

There are very few buildings left standing that date back to pre W.W.II.  The town post office building  is one of  the few still standing that dates back to this era and we were told that it once housed a Jewish family.  I saw one other older home that was barely standing that dated back to before the war. It was also supposedly a Jewish home and it was located up on the hill in the area where we were told most of the town's Jews lived.   My grandmother left Khorostkov in the late 1920s.   Unfortunately, the elders of the town were in their 70s so no one remembered her or her family.  The people left there are simple and nice.  Sadly, I met no Jews in either of the two shtetls I visited (my grandfather was from Tolstoye).  These towns remains poor, like much of Ukraine.

A final tidbit of note.  A woman on my trip was told on one of her shtetl visits that the Ukrainians were better off when the Jews still lived in these towns. The Jews organized and ran commerce in these little towns and once they were gone so too was the order and prosperity that the Jews created for everyone.

 Sign to town off main highway  Town sign at entrance to town  Khorostkov Landscape  Khorostkov Landscape

 Field where Jewish cemetery once stood  Field where Jewish cemetery once stood  Field where Jewish cemetery once stood

 Memorial and mass grave site  Detail of left plaque.  Detail of right plaque.

 Memorial and mass grave site  Memorial and mass grave site  Tombstone fragments from original Jewish cemetery left to the side of memorial site  Remnant of tombstone from plowed Jewish cemetery


 Beautiful farmland located near the memorial site  Beautiful farmland located near the memorial site



 Group of local women  Oldest woman living in Khorostkov  Mike Bratter and the oldest man in Khorostkov



 Former Jewish home, now the town post office  Main road leading into Khorostkov