Journal of our visit to Czortków

Submitted by Thomas F. Weiss

We went right through Buchach and onto Chortkiv where we arrived at 10:15am. The “chort'” in Chortkiv apparently means “devil.”' Curiously, this town is in an area that also includes Satanov for “satan”'.

Chortkiv looked better than Buchach and clearly had also been a substantial community once. We stopped at the former Chortkiv synagogue --- an impressive structure complete with satellite dish on the roof. Eric was video taping the scene.

While I was taking pictures of the Chortkiv synagogue, a middle-aged fellow came over to me and admired my Nikon camera. He spoke a mile a minute in Ukrainian until I let him know that I did not understand a word. He motioned for me to follow him into the synagogue building where he had a photography store. He asked if I were a professional photographer, based on the quality of the camera I was using. I told him that I am an amateur. We went into his shop, and there were two other fellows there who admired the camera. The original man, who owned the business, gave me his business card which was in cyrillic and then inspected the camera with great care. He seemed thrilled to see such a camera.Then he showed me his equipment which was
mostly old. I felt a bit guilty for having such a fancy camera just for play, while this poor fellow was trying to make a living with his very poor equipment. I noticed that they took photographs, scanned them into an ancient computer, and then image processed them to produce final results; a number were hanging on the walls of the shop. We left the pleasant shop and drove into the center of Chortkiv.

There is a beautiful 17th century Catholic Church in the center of Chortkiv as well as other interesting pre-WWII buildings. There was an old Ratusz (city/town hall). We photographed all this in video and 35mm. While we were doing all this, a fellow walked up to us and told us earnestly that “someone should drive the pope from Kiev to Lviv for free.” It was quite bizarre and I thought the fellow must be drunk but he did not reek of alcohol as many males in this country do. Alex dismissed him quickly. We went on to the cemetery, which was somewhat difficult to find; we took some pretty small roads to get there. Some were really dirt paths. It looked like it was about to rain, and Alex warned us to return rapidly to the car in case of rain because he was afraid the path would turn to mud.

As in Buchach, the cemetery is on a hill overlooking the town, and the views into Chortkiv from the cemetery hill were beautiful. Unfortunately, during our stay the clouds had rolled in and the sun was blocked, making photography more difficult. Given the size and the antiquity of the Jewish community in Chortkiv, the cemetery must have once been a great deal larger than it is today. There is no doubt that what remains could be cleared and the stones scrubbed to obtain the information. Unless stones are lurking in the woods behind the cemetery, this looks like a much smaller job than what we did in Buchach. We drove back through the town to get to the main road. It is really a very nice town with lots of pre-war buildings in much better repair than in Buchach.

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