Searching for Ancestral Memories
Mogilev-Podolsky and Czernowitz
The end of a major segment of my life was also the beginning of this story. My Mom, who had been such a significant part of my life, passed away in July 2000. The weeks after her death were particularly difficult for me, so to stay busy I started searching the Internet for traces of my ancestors. It wasn't long before I found Jewish Genealogy http://jewishgen.org/and submitted my family names in the various databases. Soon thereafter, I started corresponding with other people who were searching the same names that I was. One such person (Cliff Rees) who had Fuhrmans in his ancestors, referred me to http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/radauti/mylosttribe.html, which describes a cemetery used during the Shoah by the ghetto in Mogilev-Podolsky. To my amazement, on a list of burials in this article was my grandmother's name. I was totally overwhelmed and was convinced that my deceased mother had steered me in this direction from the other world.
Next on the scene came Bruce Reisch (Cliff's cousin) who was working on the cemetery maps described in the article. I begged Bruce to let me become a part of the group transcribing the cemetery lists for a joint project between JewishGen and Yad Vashem. On the maps sent to me by Bruce, I also found the grave of my paternal grandfather. My sons David and Adam helped in the transcribing process as well and my involvement and curiosity continued to grow. I knew I would not rest until I actually found this place.
After searching the Internet for several months, I finally made a connection with someone who had actually been there. This person lives in Israel and went to Mogilev-Podolsky in 1997 to search for his mother's grave. I spoke to him on the telephone several times and he was very gracious in helping me. He referred me to someone who lives in Mogilev-Podolsky who would help me.
My contact in Mogilev-Podolsky was Sasha Yusin. His father and his sister live in Israel now, but Sasha has elected to remain in the Ukraine. How would I speak to this person? He can't speak English; I can't speak Russian. My contact from Israel (with whom I spoke German) suggested I try Yiddish. It's been a long time since I spoke any Yiddish, but I would try. I called Sasha, who owns a taxi service in Ukraine, and we spoke in Yiddish. We were able to communicate and that was enough. My Israeli contact also wrote to Sasha and told him how to go about finding my grandparents' graves. In the meantime, Steve (my husband) and I booked our trip that would also include Czernowitz, my ancestral family home.
For Czernowitz, I booked the Hotel Chermosh, which was the only hotel recommended by anyone who has been there. I corresponded with Haim Cohen from our RomSig group, and he advised me to call Zoya, a travel agent at the Chermosh. I repeatedly attempted to reach her by e-mail and by phone, but was unable to do so. I spoke with someone at the front desk who told me I would be able to arrange for a translator/guide when I arrive.
A Brief History
My grandparents and great grandparents came from Czernowitz and Sadgora, in Bukowina. Bukowina is a region that was part of Austria-Hungary when my grandparents and great-grandparents lived. Then after WWI, Bukowina became part of Roumania. In 1940, Russia occupied Czernowitz for one year, and then in 1941, Roumania allied with Germany, drove the Russians out. In 1941, as part of the Nazi program, most of the Jews from this region were deported to ghettos in Transnistria, an area on the East side of the Dneister River occupied by the Axis powers, of which Mogilev-Podolsky was a part. My family was sent to Mogilev-Podolsky in October 1941. In 1944, Mogilev-Podolsky was liberated by the Russians and Bukowina was split between Roumania and Ukraine, with Czernowitz and Sadgora becoming part of Ukraine. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, when it declared its independence.
While in the ghetto in Mogilev-Podolsky, my maternal grandmother, Lotti Spitzer, and my paternal grandfather, Meichel Fuhrmann died. My grandmother was only 57 years old, but when she contracted pneumonia she was unable to get medication. When my grandmother died, my mother refused to put her on the wagon that came through the camp every day to pick up the dead and bury them in mass graves. Through the help of some other relatives at the camp she was able to buy a single grave for her mother. My paternal grandfather also was buried in a single grave.