Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Visit to Ukraine (Part 2)

Tuesday: Today was a great day. We went to the main train station in Kiev, waited for the Nezhin train at what we thought was the right track (Track 2), only to get concerned when the train hadn't arrived 5 minutes before it was supposed to leave. After some running around and asking the wrong people, we found out we were at the completely wrong terminal (P2). We ran and ran and got on the train just before it took off! The ride to Nezhin was peaceful, only an hour and a half, and there is so much lush vegetation and greenery in the country.

As soon as we exited the train, we asked around for a map (Karta), but couldn't find any. Some people gave us directions to the center of town and we decided to walk it. We passed through various open-air markets with produce, tools, clothes, toys, anything Nezhinets could want. At one time, Nezhin was famous in these parts for its pickles!

When we got to the center of town, we made a bit of a loop around the center and stopped for a pieroshki sold by a street vendor. Then we went to city hall to find the town records. They directed us the archives building behind an old church. There we met with a nice woman who explained my last name sounded familiar, but all of the town archives had been transferred to Chernigov (capital of the county) two years ago, but she was kind to walk us to the jewish community center.

There we met Mark Lipkovich, who runs the center as a volunteer and just happened to stop by as a coincidence. His family has lived in Nezhin since at least the 19th century and his grandfather was about the same age as my great grandfather who was from there. Mark requested a building from the city for a community center and restored it to modern conditions. In the cemetery, he built a crypt to maintain the famous Lubavitch tomb and a sanctuary for high holiday services, and he got the city to run electric lines out there. Hedrove us to the cemetery (about 8 KM, just outside the city limits) to tour the facilities. He led all of the process in the past 8 years - he is proud but hopes to make much more progress in the coming years. He drove us back to the city where we looked at the outside of a former synagogue (now a public works building) that is around the corner from the current JCC. http://www.fjc.ru/news/newsArticle.asp?AID=590338

We walked around the Nezhin city center a bit more and took a quick look around the country museum, which has items of town history from the 17th century up through WWII. Then we took a bus back to the train station, and quickly purchased a ticket for the next train (it is a much longer trip - 2.5 hours) but is the only train leaving before 2:00am!! We read and dozed throughout the trip. We read in a tourbook that there is a "Jewish" restaurant in Kiev, so we decided to track it down in order to complete the day's theme. It turned out to be right across the street from our hotel and we had walked by it (and even looked in) a few times. It's nothing like an American Jewish deli - it was a bit fancy. The main courses consist of fish, veal, and duck. We had lots of tasty side dishes and soups too.

Tomorrow we are planning to take a boat to the Hydropark!

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