It is extremely important for us to contribute to the development a culture of remembrance in rural areas, especially in relation to the Jewish cultural heritage and the Holocaust in Ukraine.
Massacres of the peaceful and innocent Jewish population took place in rural areas of Ukraine. The ensuing burials, while they happened, were without memorial signs, often only in Ukrainian and with a lack of more specific information, about the cause or chain of events.
We want to start actively working in this area and to plan an international youth exchange project for 2022 to host young active people from abroad here in Ukraine to work on historical sites, to learn about multicultural heritage of Ukraine and get new international friends.
Presently, we are communicating with representatives of different communities in our region (village heads, school directors, representatives of civil society and other activists) and are exploring opportunities for cooperation.
We have just recently completed a trip to the neighboring Khmelnytsky region where we held various meetings in Pluzhenska OTG of the Shepetivska district.
Having visited the village of Kuniv, we learned about a Jewish community, which was largely exterminated during German occupation of Volyn in World War II. There is a memorial column (photo), which brings to attention “the Soviet citizens” killed by the Nazis. The word “Jews” is conspicuously omitted in the text, which is only in Ukrainian. It is common knowledge among the local communities that the site is, in fact, a mass grave for at least 487 people from the Kuniv Jewish community.
In the forest nearby formerly existed a respected Jewish cemetery, evidenced by leftover strewn tombstones (hebr: “matsevy”), but time constraints last week prevented our further discovery of this area, and suggests that a lot of work of discovery is required and possible.
We learned, that presently the pupils of the Kuniv lyceum tend to the care of the memorial site and it prompted us to pay a spontaneous visit to the school. Indeed, active teachers and their pupils have not forgotten the history of the village. On the contrary, they build bridges to the future on the basis of history and try to give a worthy memory to the the Jewish community.
Now the lyceum became interested in connecting with the descendants of the Kuniv Jews in Ukraine and abroad.
Also, we will now reach out to potential partners among the organization who are dealing with issues related to Jewish culture and the Holocaust.
We will gather experts and activists to help carry out our stately mission – to reveal the multicultural potential of the Ukrainian village to create a favorable climate for international cooperation for the benefit of the development of rural areas and its inhabitants.
A return visit to Kuniv is imminent.