VINNITSA CITY TOUR
was seven O’clock in the morning.
I swallowed the bitter pain of a sore throat.
The three of us sit together at the dining room table of the
hotel and had breakfast. It
was now eight thirty. Vlad suggested that we visit the state archives
office located in Vinnitsa to check on the information Sasha, our
navigator from yesterday, shared with us.
FOUND AN ARCHIVES OFFICE
far as I knew, there had existed an archive administration office in
Kumermetsky but had recently burned down. It housed the birth, marriage
and death certificates of the Jewish families. Apparently both private
and official civil contract records for the Jewish community were also
destroyed in the fire. This occurred just before the Republic of Ukraine
was established. Furthermore, half of the records had already been lost during
WWII. I had very low
expectations about how much we would gain by reviewing the archival
According to Sasha, there was a chance that some of the documents survived and had been transferred to Vinnitsa when the new Republic established and the oblast merged with Vinnitsa. If this is true, we may be able to view the remaining archives in this very town.
INTERVIEWING DR. VINOKUROVA
postponed our plan to revisit Litin and Bagrinovitsy into afternoon and
decided to visit instead the archives office in the morning.
At nine O’clock in the morning we walked to the state archive
office. By surprise we
found the building was located right next to the museum we visited
yesterday. The wall of the building looked damaged, the plaster was
peeling off the side to expose its naked concrete. The front door had
collapsed and, therefore shutdown and closed. To get into the building,
we had to walk around to the side of the building where we reached a
small temporary side door.
noticed yesterday when we visited the museum that the economic recovery
in Ukraine has been significant and yet, it is most disturbing to notice
otherwise a lack of recovery in the official state facilities.
The facilities with the Coca Cola and McDonald’s insignia
demonstrated their American power of capital with modernized renovation.
On the other hand, the poor appearance at the official branches gave us
the impression they were way behind in terms of recovery. It is obvious
that the main stream of the government such as national administration
offices were intact but the more ancillary offices such as the library,
museum, archive offices looked as if they had been forgotten.
The archive office was in a concrete building built
during the Soviet period - it felt cold and damp. A naked light bulb was hanging wearily from the ceiling only
to shed shadows on the dusty antique desks and chairs toppled with
mountains of paper documents.
We waited for 30 minutes in old ripped vinyl chairs
when finally an official received us by saying bluntly that all the
vital archive records for Litin district had burned in the Klemetsyky in
fire. This, I knew.
However, he continued that there are some Jewish
records available here, buy we needed to request access through the
Deputy Director. I did not
understand why only the Jewish records were archived in this office.
Nevertheless I decided to apply for the request thinking there must be
some kind of reasoning behind this.
When I was merely twenty years of age I was a newspaper reporter
in Japan. I knew the consequences since I had worked with government
officials on daily base. Though
it was more than 30 years ago, I assumed all the bureaucratic societies
are regulated with a similar routine. If I apply for access in the
proper manner by asking for an audience with a state official, I may be
given the chance to see him tomorrow if I am lucky. Otherwise I may have
to wait for a week. My
experience of 30 years ago told me I should to walk into his office
without submitting any official application form.
Unfortunately I was told the Deputy Director had not
yet appeared for the day. I, then, asked Vlad to locate the secretary of
the Deputy. Vlad found out from the secretary that there was another
office for the Deputy, which was located within walking distance.
We all exited the building and within 10 minutes
arrived at the branch office of the state archives. The name of the
Deputy was Dr. Faima Vinokrova. We
walked into the office and were surprised to see the Deputy in fact was
a lady. We also find out
she was Jewish herself as she explained her own interests in tracing the
family roots of those who died in the holocaust.
Now, I understood the entire scheme of the state
archive department. The
department kept only the documents of Jewish heritage due to the fact
that the district in the Vinnitsa oblast represents old Podolia guvernia,
the old Jewish residential district in Ukraine.
The descendents of the Ashkenazi Jewish Canadians and
Americans became frequent inquirers of the state archives department.
Consequently, the government started providing a service to the
genealogical researchers. Dr.
Vinokrova might be an individual who was appointed by the local
government to share the Jewish vital records. As we guessed, she also
was a member of the Vinnitsa Synagogue.
During my preparation to visit Litin, I studied some of
the on-line links of Vinnitsa oblast. I knew there was a web site for
the Jewish Synagogue organization so that the international Jewish
community could make donations. If the monetary fees could assist any
conveniences of the genealogical research, then we would be encouraged
to conduct further business with the state officials.
The first thing the Deputy director said to us was that
there would be a charge for her services. I immediately offered a
US$100.00 bill as an application fee for access to the archives.
Her face was filled with satisfaction and she explained to us
about her research to compile a list of holocaust victims in the
Vinnitsa oblast. She
requested a donation for her publication expenses.
I certainly agreed by handing her a US$20.00 bill. I learned it
was far easier to conduct business once the roles of consumer and
service provider had been established. Such is the power of money. The
remaining problem would be time. We
were told it would take her at least two months to prepare the
and I dictated to Vlad a list of information we needed from the
LIST OF REQUESTED RECORDS
certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates for:
wife, Shandel Pervin
children, Max, Leon, Joseph, Beila, and Dora
to be honest about whole deal stated above, did not expect much of a
successful outcome, which the contrary will surprise us some time later.
was already the afternoon, when we left Dr. Vinokrova’s office.
Poor Vlad; he had to hand write the list of our requests –
there were no forms or a word processor – as such it took him
about three hours to complete the list.
I simply gave my appreciation to the Deputy Director for her time
Vlad had a different opinion about her. According to Vlad, we
contributed US$120 as insurance to make sure the job was done
successfully. He later that night confessed that he thought he mis-heard
the amount of fees as Ukrainian grivna instead of as American dollars.
He explained to us that Dr. Vinokrova’s status as a state official,
affords her a monthly salary of only a half the amount I paid that day.
Vlad laughed, “Why wouldn’t she spend 3 hours doing something for
which she is normally paid over 2 months?”
terms of our schedule for the day, I had to take into serious
consideration my physical health.
The pain in my throat was now accompanied by a headache and had
reached the point where it had convinced me to take immediate
countermeasures, other wise I would come out empty handed from the
island of treasure. Until yesterday, I thought I simply needed to rest
and control my physical condition. Now I feared that if I did not move
swiftly to miss absolutely nothing, this illness would overtake me. Our
return dates home cannot be extended. I would most likely end up in bed
with high fever in a few days. I, therefore, decided to go to Litin as
we scheduled and spend as much time as possible to collect the necessary
information. Before we departed for Litin, we dropped by a market,
purchased a loaf of bread, ham, sausages, cheese, yogurt, fruits and
We started the drive to Litin while having a delicious late lunch
in the car.
arrived at Litin from the eastern entrance, driving through the city
administration district of Lenin Street, and arrived again at the exit
of the northeastern district of the city. Ever since last Saturday, the
entire outline of the city was registered in my mind; I am now quite
comfortable figuring out my exact location. At the northwestern end of
the district, I knew an old Jewish cemetery was located. We passed under
a unique looking green entrance of the cemetery where we found old
gravestones standing among the tall weeds deep in the forest. It
appeared to be a much smaller cemetery compared to the cemetery in
Berdechev, where it took us almost a hour to walk through the entire
cemetery. All three of us spent time taking photos and video. The
condition of the stones surrounding the wild weeds and trees were not so
I wondered if it were possible to organize a group of ten people
as volunteers. Within one month, the entire cemetery could be cleaned.
this trip, I contacted one of the pioneer explorers of Podolia,
Chapin of Austin Texas, for instructions on how to clean gravestones to
better read the inscriptions.
He most kindly sent me through e-mail a most complete set of
I carried the instructions with me.
But it was almost impossible to locate any gravestones belonging
to the Pervin family due to the condition and quantity of stones there
No matter how much time was cleaning the stone, one would be
unable to read the inscription.
became a dark dusk by the time we completed our walk through the
holocaust sites. We also revisited the remains of the Pervin residence.
Though we had scheduled to drop by the museum to search for the
photographs taken by the city hall, it was too late to visit – it
We knocked at the entrance of the museum – a very old thick
wooden door of what had been a prison - only to find no one was
also dropped by the renovation site of the Cathedral to find all the
construction workers had gone home.
It appeared the work for the day was finished.
Heidi and I enjoyed the moment of free time to fantasize about
the site of the Pervin residence. In the tall weeds of the open field, I
kept shooting of photos and videos while Heidi paced back and forth on
the space where her great grand parents and their children once resided
one hundred years ago.
She appeared to be enjoying the thoughts of how her ancestors
slept, walked, and played in this different era.
promised myself that we would start early tomorrow morning so that we
could spend as much time as possible in one of the most important
villages of the Pervin family, Bagrinovitsy.
I prepared for the worst scenario; even if I had to stay in bed
with a high fever at least I would be able to experience some time in
the village. There are some more places in Litin I would like to visit.
But for now, I could not take the chance of possibly missing the
opportunity to see Bagrinovitsy.
appeared to notice my physical limitation for I began to wall slowly and
stopped carrying any conversation.
She started escorting me by holding my hands and shoulders and
said to Vlad that the day had come to an end.