Ostropol, Ukraine

Stary Ostropil , Ostropolya, Ostropolia, אסטראפאער (Yiddish), Старий Острополъ (Ukr), Старый Острополъ (Rus)

Gakya's Trip to Ostropol, 2006

Galya Diment Professor, Thomas L. & Margo G. Wyckoff Endowed Faculty Fellow,
Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Washington, Seattle

Figure 1: Outskirts of Ostropol

I went to Ostropol in 2006 in connection with my book, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky (McGill UP, 2011). I went there because the subject of my book, Samuel Koteliansky, a Russian-English literary translator and a close friend of Katherine Mansfield, D.H. Lawrence, and H.G. Wells, among others, came from Ostropol. Koteliansky's direct relatives, the families of his brother, Moishel, and of his niece Polly (the daughter of his sister, Yokhevet) all live in Montreal. Koteliansky's grandnieces and grandnephews were extremely helpful to me from the start and also put me in touch with Dean Echenberg, who had visited Ostropol several years earlier. My husband and I travelled to Ostropol in 2006.

Figure 2: Galya in the Ostropol Cemetary

Here is a part of my Acknowledgements in the book pertaining to my Ostropol trip: "My research in Ostropol was greatly facilitated by Petro Vlasenko, who was born and raised in Starokonstantinov. He met my husband and me in Kiev and arranged our car trip to Ostropol, as well as our accommodations in Starokonstantinov. Our driver, Viktor Vintskovsky, who lives in Starokonstantinov, turned out to be a wonderful guide as well. My information about Anatoly Polonsky, the only remaining Jew in Ostropol, came largely from Dean Echenberg, another descendant of the Ostropol clan living in Montreal, to whom I am very grateful. We spent several days with Anatoly and his wife Katya, eating, drinking, and talking. It is because of Anatoly's efforts than many gravestones from the vandalized Jewish cemeteries in Ostropol have been saved and are now stored in his garden."

Figure 3: Katya, Galya and Anatoly

We stayed in Starokonstantinov, which is 10 minutes by car to Ostropol. In addition to a Soviet-style hotel, there was a small and rather luxurious "club" with saunas, a pool, and a bar (we did not want to know what or who exactly it was meant for...) and we stayed in a VERY nice suite there for a bit more than $100. I don't know if it still exists but for those of you who are interested in going, I will be happy to check. We got the information about it from Petro, whom I found online because he had posted great pictures of Starokonstantinov and Ostropol there. He immediately responded and was tremendously helpful to us, basically arranging our entire trip. I have not been in touch with him for a while.

Figure 4: Katya and Anatoly on the back porch.

As to Anatoly (you can see the pictures of him and his wife, as well the gravestones in his garden on this site), we exchanged letters for a year or so after I came back, and the last one was written in a hospital where he was laid up being "terribly sick," as he put it. I replied to him right away but did not hear anything after that. I assume he is no longer alive, and shudder to think what may have happened with the gravestones in his garden that he so heroically saved. In my book, which is coming out in a paperback edition in April of this year, in addition to documenting Koteliansky's years in Ostropol (he was 31 when he left in 1911), Ialso go back to Ostropol for the years following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War (with most of Koteliansky's family still there) and during the WWII. Pleasw refer to the early, Ostropol pages of my book.