While visiting the orthodontist before Passover for a checkup, I mentioned to the receptionist that I'd be leaving for two weeks, but would then be able to return for a follow up visit.
"Where?" she asked
"Oh, I'm going to Ukraine," I said rather nonchalantly.
Her eyes widened,
"Ukraine? And here I was thinking that Texas or something. My you're getting to see the world. You must be so excited!"
. . . and oddly enough, I wasn't.
As I have long since learned, however, I never end up where I want to go . . . I end up where I need to go.
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I've done Eastern Europe. I lived in Poland and Lithuania, I spent a summer in Russia . . . and before that, one in Ukraine as well (not to mention a freezing few days in the coldest winter in the past 30 years).
Thus I was rather nonplussed when I was told that once more I'd be riding the Ladas in what, to the greater extent of my lineage, is my ancestral land. I'd actually wanted Japan or something for a seder.
But off I went, on a flight of 40 or so bochurim - most of them initiates in leading Passover sedarim, and thus in the Former Soviet Union for the first time.
So as the fresh-eyed Ohelei Torah'niks made lame jokes that confused Ukraine with Russia and tried to figure out why they spelled the name of the country, Україна, with a p(sic); Moish (of Peruvian fame and a fellow survivor of Eastern Europe) and I sped through customs and baggage claim.
Finding our driver, Sergei we were delighted to see he had a sign with our names on it . . . something I've seen every time I leave a plain, but never experienced myself (for the record . . . it rocks!)
Glancing at the plebeians who didn't merit a driver with their name on sign, we followed Sergei out to the parking lot.
Bochur'ishe Hijinks . . . 10 if you can name this sibling of a Blogger ;-)
In Cherkasy we met the Rabbi, R' Dov and the Head of the Community, Dovid. After some time in the Shul, Dovid, escorted us to our interim apartment . . Lenina 31. Much to our 'pleasure', we found it to be a Soviet apartment, with all the accouterments of a glorious life in the CCCP . . . small fridges, little water pressure and tepid at that, and a collection of used dishes in the sink (including two shot glasses)
As he was leaving, Dovid paused to remove an icon from the front door.
"You won't need this." He laughed, as he put it face down on a nearby shelf.
True at that. . .
Putting Tefillin on Alex outside the apartment.
A tour of the Chabad School . . .
Moish with the kids
Before the War, Cherkasy was home to a large Jewish community. Stretching further back in its history, the city was home to a son-in-law of the Mittler Rebbe, R' Yaakov Yisroel Twersky. His grave site was lost to time and the ravages of Communism (the majority of the cemetery remains buried under nearby buildings). Yisroel Meir Gabai, a man who feels the inexplicable urge to remove existing traditional architecture around various holy sites, instead opting to build everything in the rather tacky Israeli style, claims to have found the grave and built a marker around it.
R' Yaakov Yisroel Twersky of Cherkasy(?)
We found out that Cherkasy is only an hour from Shpola . . . Home and burial site of the Shpoler Zeyde.
Our driver for this ride had a Mercedes from the mid-Eighties. So impressed was he with the prowess of his car, he had a matching Mercedes baseball cap and set of headrest covers to go with it.
Like all Ukrainian drivers, he considered wearing a seat-belt an insult to his driving skills.
Zipping down bumpy roads and through small towns with chicken filled streets, we came to Shpola.
As per Ukrainian tradition - a non-Jew trying to make an extra few bucks by bringing water to the cemetery for visiting guests
Inside the Ohel
Bubbushkas on the road side. The driver stopped to buy some eggs, which he and his girlfriend proceeded to crack open and suck out their contents.
Returning we went to the Dnieper river to tovel various dishes for the Passover seder there . . . and in Uman.
Stay tuned for future installments . . .
Technorati Tags: Cherkasy, Shpola, Ukraine, Travel, Passover, Photography, Judaism, Shlichus, Chabad, Nature