Lviv had the largest population of Jews in Russia prior to WWII with 95,000 or 30% of the population. After WWII, the Jewish population was only 800-1,000. Many of them survived in the sewers.
There were 47 synagogues. Starting in 1941, synagogues were destroyed by fire and explosion Currently, there are two with only one in use.
Wherever we go life is happening: births, marriages and deaths. Here is a procession from the church to the wedding reception. Everyone celebrates as there is a band leading the group and playing joyous songs.
We have been watching movies. We will soon be arriving in Kiev so we watched the HBO Miniseries Chernobyl. It was disturbing. Rob had signed us up for a tour into the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl. He failed to mention that we have to sign permission slips, wear dosimeters, and cover as much skin as possible. What about lungs and eyes? I’m out…and by default, so is Rob.
I believe that everything in life demands a risk benefit analyses. For example, getting in a car has a risk but the benefit outweighs the risk. Touring a nuclear disaster 30 years later seems to be more risky than beneficial. The benefit of seeing a ghost town is low and the risk could be quite high especially medically. This horrific accident is shrouded in lies.
We had to list why when we cancelled. I think one of the options should be,”I watched Chernobyl and it scared me.”
Rob is reading The Girl in the Green Sweater. It is a memoir about a Jewish family’s struggle for life in horrific conditions in the sewers of Lviv. The Chiger family of husband, wife and daughter and son is the only intact family to survive. I applaud the man for his determination for doing whatever it took to make sure that his family survived this awful mess!
The book is written by Krystyna Chiger . In Darkness (2011) is the movie version.
Here is a seven minute video of her speaking about her experiences:
So where are these sewers. The Poltva River is now underground. It took a lot of sleuthing on our part as the visitors center did not know. Rob was a big help as he was reading the firsthand account. They emerged in a courtyard and his research and map skills were able to determine it’s exact location…we think.
Another guide told us that this location is where the Jews came out of it. It was much bigger. Rob doesn’t think that this is the one.
Here is the church that the Chiger family lived under for several months. They were constantly on the move. They could hear them singing above.
Leopold Socha was the sewer worker who at first was extorting money from the Jews and once all their money was gone, he would turn them in and get more money. He started to view them as people and ended up helping them with food and other supplies. In the end, he saved their lives and his name is in the book Righteous Among the Nations.
In the church pictured above, his daughter took her first communion. The church was called Our Lady of the Snow (Maria Sniezna) but is now named Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In the movie, Socha seemed to have an epiphany when he realized that Jesus was a Jew.
Rob pauses to pray in this church…there is much to pray for here.
There remains a extensive underground presence in Lviv. Under churches:
And under the apothecary:
Lastly, we went to the movie theatre to see the recent 3D remake of The Lion King. It was so good, and it was fitting that we should see it in the city named “lion”.
We knew the storyline, so it didn’t matter that the movie was in the Ukrainian language. It was fun to identify and recall so many animals that we had seen on a safari in Tanzania. They were so lifelike.