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Sadly there are no Jews left in this shtetl. In fact, their is no shtetl at all since it is under water. My discovery on my first trip was that my Vilenchik Family originated in the shtetl of Vilkija. I have pictures of the recreated shtetl which is like a Williamsburg, Virginia historical site. I think you are from Israel, and to the best of my knowledge there are no recreated 1850-type historical setting in Israel. I have been to all the cemeteries in Kovno, where my great-grandmother is buried and where my grandfather's brother and six cousins are also buried. One of my cousins was saved from death by being taken in by a righteous gentile who hid her as her daughter and returned her after the Germans left. She lived right across from the Jewish cemetery. Since I am unsure of the cemeteries' names, I will describe the Kovno cemeteries to you. There was one near the Russian compound near the railroad tracks. Elchanan Spector is buried there in a cever at the far end. The rows are buried in chronological order, with women and men in alternating rows. I helped translate some of the tombstones for JewishGen. The other cemetery, which was the main Jewish cemetery, was the place that this lady lived across the street. This cemetery, unlike the other, is in total disrepair and not maintained well. In one-third of the cemetery the tombstones were removed by the Russians to build an apartment building that, baruch hashem, never got built. I felt it almost futile to find someone there.

Whereas, I found relatives in the Vilna cemetery and in the other cemetery, this one had problems since stones were down, grass was high, and it was very large, compared to the other Kovno cemetery.

I am uncertain what the "marker" thing you refer to. I was unaware that the stones were removed or where they were then placed. I would like to give you an idea of what Lithuania is like. Vilna has 4,500 Jews, Kovno 600, Memel (which I also visited) and is now called Kalidepa, has 300 Jews. The Rest of the country has 200 Jews, all together. There are only three active synagogues; one in each of these towns mentioned before.

One of the ironic virtures of the Soviet Union is that spies still go to synagogue. During the Russian period they told who went to synagogue and got so used to it that they today make up a good portion of the minyan. Although Vilna is the bulk of the Jewish community, they have about twenty-five people who go to shul while Kovno has fifty or more. Kovnos' daily minyan has about thirty people, which is outstanding for a community so small. I'll try to see if I can scan my pictures of Rumsiskis so I can share them.

If you go to and go to images, you will find my picture if you type in "Rabbi Ed Cohen". There are pictures of the Kovno Archives, and of some of the cemeteries that we visited.

— Ed Cohen


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