In a town that used to have 60,000 Jews out of 80,000 inhabitants, Jewish stories permeate everything. I can’t leave my camera anywhere because stories turn up everywhere.
Story of Boris I already told, but his mother in law had another one for me.
While studying in college, she lived with a Jewish roommate. The roommate had her mom often send her home baked cookies and Mrs Banikina had her perents send her salo: solid pork fat. The Jewish roommate loved the pork fat and would always say: “Please don’t tell my parents I eat the salo”
“What happened to the girl?” I asked.
“I don’t know but I know she got married to a Ukranian man and moved.”
“So it began with salo…” I said.
Another story came through my best friend Pavlik’s mom, Tanya. Her neighbor, a small, upbeat and talkative old lady of about seventy five with a couple teeth left on the upper jaw. She is of Lemke Ukranian people who used to live in Poland but forced out by the Poles during a bloody ethnic cleansing between both sides in 1949. Before that, in 1941, she saw the Nazis come into her town and kill her childhood friend Josy and his entire family in front of her eyes. She was four and she lost ability to speak for two weeks.
Another story came from our family friends, the Djeranouks. The mom of Sasha Djeranouk went to college with my father’s mother. She is now ninety years old and is now the only Jew still living in the Carpathian village of Kosov where she was a doctor for over forty years. For a time, she was the only doctor. Her kids left for Israel, lived there for a time, but missed their life in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine and came back. Now they are regulars at the central and only synagogue at the city. Their apartment is reminiscent of most Jewish apartments, many books and a few Jewish relics strewn about including a menorah and a plate from Jerusalem. On their table, there is cheese and calbasa in spite of a hasidic synagogue that they attend. The Rabi at the synagogue wouldn’t condemn them. In an interview I will post later he said to me that in his view, there is only one Judaic religion, the laws are there clearly written in black and white.It’s true that not everyone can follow them just like not everyone can lift a heavy stone without practice, but he won’t say it’s ok, he won’t say something is ok when it is written that it isn’t. However, everyone is free to make their choices.
Sasha was very proud of the fact that where in Israel people have to pay to have a chance to read or be at the Toarah, in Ivano-Frankivsk it is a regular occurrence. Mr. Djeranouk is often the tenth person at the services, helping to make a Minyon. There are between 100 and 300 Jews living in the area, but rarely more than 80 make it to services outside of high holidays.